18 January 2009

Wheelchair teen wins access fight - Press & Journal

Bank ordered to pay £6,500 damages and instal lift
Published: 17/01/2009

A DISABLED teenager who took on banking giant Royal Bank of Scotland after it failed to cater for his needs has won a landmark legal challenge.

David Allen, 17, who has muscular dystrophy, brought the legal action after the bank failed to implement wheelchair access at a Sheffield branch.

Yesterday judge John Dowse ruled the bank had breached the Disability Discrimination Act.

In addition to paying £6,500 in damages the bank has until the end of September to instal a platform lift.

The ruling has set a legal precedent which could have implications for other service providers, legal experts said.

The bank claimed it complied with the Disability Rights Commission’s code of practice and it had arranged access to three other branches.

Mr Dowse said: “The bank has made errors in this case causing David considerable embarrassment. It has not covered itself in glory.”

Mr Allen said: “I’m glad justice has been done. I only wanted them to comply with the law and provide disabled access so I could get into my bank like my friends.”

A civil law discrimination specialist, barrister Declan O’Dempsey, said: “Businesses are required under the goods and services provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure customers can use their services.

“Bigger companies now know it is up to them to anticipate the needs of all their customers.

“They cannot assume that because they have made changes to some premises, their obligations end there.”

John Wadham, of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “David could have settled for a behind-the-scenes sum of money but he stood by his principles and his tenacity will mean a great number of disabled people will benefit.”

A spokeswoman for the bank said: “RBS strongly disagrees with the court's judgment and will accordingly be pursuing its right of appeal.”

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