‘Equality Zap’ for access finds progress towards disability access in Soho
On 02.02.19 – A year and a half on from a ‘Queer Disability Tour’ highlighting LGBTQI venues which denied disabled people access, campaigners have found the majority of gay bars and clubs stepping up for equality – and others continuing to fail disabled people.
The ‘Queer Tours of London – A Mince Through Time’ group visited six venues in Soho, asking them what access changes had been made since the group’s first visit in July 2017, when the campaigners requested that the venues improved disabled access.
Of the six venues, five had installed temporary ramps, while one, Comptons, has also installed a sign and doorbell.
Four promised to put up a window sticker so that passers by can see that stepfree access is available.
One, Balans, which has a step into the premises and no ramp, had made no changes since the campaigners first requested that they improve access. When questioned, the manager on duty would not commit to implementing equality for their disabled customers.
Since 1995, pubs and bars have had a legal duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ such as purchasing a portable ramp to ensure that disabled customers can access their premises with the same freedom and independence as non-disabled customers. However, compliance is poor.
The group is now considering legal action against Balans under the 2010 Equality Act.
‘Before I was de-motivated about the whole thing but this year i feels we have achieved something! We’ve got somewhere and we are gonna move it to another level if they don’t do something this year. Get moving because we are coming for you people!’ Kevin Wilson, ‘Queer Disability Justice Tour’ guide and activist
‘It’s easy. I ordered the ramp and access sticker in a day, and put in the doorbell overnight. ‘Why should people have to question whether they are allowed to come. All of a sudden you allow people that might not have thought they could come into the venue that they care about us.’ James Bartlett, Manager, Old Comptons.
“It’s great to see that more LGBTQ venues in Soho are getting serious about inclusion and equality, making the changes that ensure their disabled customers can have a night out without access stress.
More than twenty years after the Disability Discrimination Act, it’s just unacceptable that there are still venues out there turning away disabled customers. A ramp costs £50 – why would you not want to comply with the law?” Lianna Etkind, Queer Disability Justice activist
Chris Nagel has been the head doorman at Freedom for over 19 years. He said: “We are putting in access because it is a must. Everyone should be able to come into the venue.”
Shane Knight, who works at the Duke of Wellington, said: “We’ve had a ramp for years. It’s about access for all”.
Karl Nixon, from the Admiral Duncan pub, said: “We got a ramp, and we’re going to get a sticker [to let people know a ramp is available], because it’s important to the gay community and beyond. We have a lot of people coming in with wheelchairs now, it has made a difference”.
Notes to Editors:
1. Kevin Wilson can be contacted for interview on firstname.lastname@example.org / Photo credits – Holly Buckle / Video credits – Sophie Falkenburg
‘Queer Tours of London – A Mince Through Time’exist to shine a light on London’s rich LGBTQI history through creative and life-affirming interactive tours. We tell the stories of London’s queer history, shedding light on the lives, spaces, identities, repression and resistance that form the backdrop of LGBTQI lives today. We do this through educational, accessible and interactive walking tours, cabarets, street-art and events that bring life to the complexities and lived experiences of our history, present and vision for the future. ‘Queer Tours of London’ are for everyone in London – visitors and residents – to be inspired by our history and get involved in our future.We also welcome requests for special-themed tours, private tours and all kinds of collaborations. Contact us on email@example.com for all involvement / press requests / collaborations.
3. The Equality Act 2010, which replaced the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995, makes it unlawful not to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to enable disabled people to access goods and services. Reasonable adjustments may include include a ramp; a lift; a large print menu or a hearing loop. More information at www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/multipage-guide/using-service-reasonable-adjustments-disabled-people
4. Coverage of the July 2017 action: https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/a33gjg/the-highs-and-lows-of-clubbing-with-a-physical-disability
5. The Equality ‘Zap’ was in the tradition of ‘Zaps’ originally organised by gay activists in the 1970s. ‘Zaps’ have continued to be used by LGBTQI activists throughout the 1980s and 1990s and beyond. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zap_(action)
|Venue||2018 Changes Made|
|Admiral Duncan||Have ramp – but don’t have a sign in window – GM wasn’t aware should have one. But very happy to talk to us and accommodating.|
|Comptons||James was really amazing. They had a ramp and disability sign. Talked about how a few years ago there was an incident in which they didn’t know where the ramp was, since then they have taken changes to make the venue way more accessible.Has taken huge changes.|
|Balans||Seemed super disinterested and uncaring.“I have only been here 9 months”Saw it as a structural issues that just wasn’t in his hands!Really poor accessibility – no ramp. Didn’t commit to any promises|
|Yard Bar||Is movable ramp, but not visible. Don’t have sign letting people know but happy to put sticker up.|
|Duke of Wellingtons||Ramp available.|
|Freedom||Kevin had spoken to Chris Nagel, head doorman a few weeks ago, and he said he would put up visibility sign – not there yet.However very receptive, and said would put in sign in 2 weeks max.|
Movable ramp is there, but supervisor didn’t know how to use it.