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JD Wetherspoons – Twickenham – Snotty Response to Serious Accessibility Failures!!

I visited here 28th December 2018 with a friend who is also a full-time wheelchair user. The first issue we had was trying to open their heavy glass doors, just to get in. We ended up having to find help. Finding a table was a bit like navigating a maze around other tall tables with bar stools. I nearly bashed my shoulder several times.

We find a suitable table, well I say suitable, only to the point we had one. Neither of us could get our legs under the table as the table was a fairly small square one our chair’s wouldn’t fit between the table legs. For me, this posed a big problem. I have very poor grip and my arms/hand are extremely weak, so lifting glasses/food etc is impossible for me unless I am as close to the table as possible!

The next problem we encountered was the bar. Basically, it was so damn high, we couldn’t really be seen by the bar staff. This meant my friend waited for ages to be served as the staff kept ignoring her and serving other people. In the end, I had to go up to the bar and shout out that we were actually there!! They replied, “Oh I didn’t see you there”!! No sh** Sherlock!! Having to ask for help with her drinks being carried to our table, the staff did this but you just knew they didn’t really want to as the bar was busy. But alas, they did it anyway!

When I went to get some more drinks, I had difficulties reaching up and over the bar to use the card machine, feeling rushed I struggled on, I ended up the next day in severe back pain as I must have pulled a muscle.

Security staff were chatting with a customer when my friend wanted to go to the loo, she tried passing them but was unable to as they were blocking the way forward. She waited patiently for them to move out of the way. Then asked them to move. They clearly saw her as one looked right at her but still failed to move. In the end, she literally had to play skittles to pass them.

The disabled toilet leaves much to be desired also. There are two doors to go through to get to the toilet. Both of which open out to each other. The first door open into a very small square space, you then have to open the toilet door out towards the door you have just opened and then turn left into the toilet. Very difficult to use if by yourself. No turning circle either. You have no choice but to face the toilet and transfer. Hopeless for me!!

Their website gives no info regarding disabled access!!

So I emailed a full breakdown (table) of all the issues I came across to JD Wetherspoons that I’ve mentioned above. I had to email a second time as almost a month had passed and I had no reply. When I did receive a reply, this is what they said:

Dear Caroline

I write regarding previous correspondence.   

We have reviewed the William Web Ellis and feel there is adequate access. 

However, if you should visit and encounter any problems we suggest you speak to the manager at the time so he can understand the difficulties.   

We are aware we do not have a drop bar and this is something we can consider if we refurbish in the future.   

I hope this information is help. 

Yours sincerely

4 LINES, 4 LINES!!! Well, What does one say to that? This is what one says: Ok, this is what I said:

Dear Ms X,

Thank you for the most delayed, inconsiderate and flippant response I have received to date, from a company.  I am shocked you have simply said if I have any problems in the future, speak to the manager of the branch and simply brushed off my complaint.  I have complained to your department, so it is your responsibility, not anyone else’s!

The fact I explained I ended up in pain because of the ridiculously high counters is something you say, MAY consider being changed if ever it is refurbished.  It needs changing now!!  Complete ignorance of the Equality Act 2010.  I ended up in pain using your service!!! 

As Wetherspoons seem so unfamiliar with the Equality Act 2010, here is a little reminder of what it says:

What is direct disability discrimination? 

Direct discrimination occurs where, because of disability, a person receives worse treatment than someone who does not have a disability.  –  We were hidden behind said counter, therefore not served in a reasonable time-frame, due to my disability and not being able to reach up and over safely, I ended up hurting my back!!

What is discrimination arising from disability?

Discrimination arising from disability occurs when a disabled person is treated unfavourably because of something connected with their disability and the unfavourable treatment cannot be justified. Discrimination arising from disability is different from direct discrimination. Direct discrimination occurs when a service provider treats someone less favourably because of the disability itself. In the case of discrimination arising from disability, the question is whether the disabled person has in practice been treated unfavourably because of something connected with their disability.  –  I’m sure the EHRC will decide which one fits this case!  On their website, they say this:

Equality law recognises that bringing about equality for disabled people may mean changing the way in which services are delivered, providing extra equipment and/or the removal of physical barriers.

This is the ‘duty to make reasonable adjustments’. A duty is something someone must do, in this case because the law says they must.

The duty to make reasonable adjustments aims to make sure that if you are a disabled person, you can use an organisation’s services as close as it is reasonably possible to get to the standard usually offered to non-disabled people.

If an organisation providing goods, facilities or services to the public or a section of the public, or carrying out public functions, or running an association finds there are barriers to disabled people in the way it does things, then it must consider making adjustments (in other words, changes). If those adjustments are reasonable for that organisation to make, then it must make them.

The duty is ‘anticipatory’. This means an organisation cannot wait until a disabled person wants to use its services, but must think in advance (and on an ongoing basis) about what disabled people with a range of impairments might reasonably need, such as people who have a visual impairment, a hearing impairment, a mobility impairment or a learning disability.

An organisation is not required to do more than it is reasonable for it to do. What is reasonable for an organisation to do depends, among other factors, on its size and nature, and the nature of the goods, facilities or services it provides, or the public functions it carries out, or the association it runs.

If you are a disabled person and can show that there were barriers an organisation should have identified and reasonable adjustments it could have made, you can bring a claim against it in court. If you win your case, the organisation may be told to pay compensation and make the reasonable adjustments.

What reasonable adjustments do you have to make for disabled people?

Service providers are required to make changes, where needed, to improve service for disabled customers or potential customers. There is a legal requirement to make reasonable changes to the way things are done (such as changing a policy), to the built environment (such as making changes to the structure of a building to improve access) and to provide auxiliary aids and services (such as providing information in an accessible format, an induction loop for customers with hearing aids, special computer software or additional staff support when using a service). Where a service is delivered from a building that cannot be made accessible through reasonable adjustments, it may be a reasonable adjustment to provide the service at a different venue, including a home visit. Reasonable changes are required wherever disabled customers or potential customers would otherwise be at a substantial disadvantage compared with non-disabled people. A substantial disadvantage is more than a minor or trivial disadvantage. Service providers cannot charge disabled customers for reasonable adjustments.  

It is shocking Wetherspoons is not at all dismayed that not one but two customers were completely ignored by staff, unfavourably treated, plus the fact NO help was offered in any shape and all help had to be asked for.  Absolutely disgusting!

I campaign for better access/treatment on the high street, I now have to decide if I wish to bring a claim against Wetherspoons to the EHRC.

Please forward this email onto your Company CEO John Hutson as I would like to discuss this matter further with him, before taking the matter any further.

I received another reply, again after I had to chase them up:

Dear Mrs Bathurst

Thank you for your e-mail. Please accept our apologies for the delay in responding.    

John Hutson has passed your email on to the customer services team to respond, as we look after any correspondence that relate to our customers on his behalf.                  

Your further comments have been noted and we are sorry to hear of your continued disappointment.    

We can confirm that all pubs meet applicable accessibility legislation and requirements that were in place at the time they were constructed. Your comments regarding the structure of the building have been noted and accessibility is always a key consideration when pubs are refurbished.   

Any specific issues encountered during a visit should, where possible, be brought to the attention of the duty manager so they can be addressed straightaway. This will enable the duty manager to immediately resolve any issue which they are able to, e.g. table layout restricting the door of the accessibility toilet, etc.    

As a company, we expect our staff to offer assistance to customers if they are approached, and will ensure this is reiterated to the team at the William Webb Ellis.    

As you may or may not be aware, we now offer a service by way of our Order & Pay app. We encourage all customers to use the app and this method of ordering is popular across our whole customer base and particularly assists customers who may find ordering at the bar difficult. The mobile ordering app enables customers to order our full range of products with the drinks / food then  being delivered directly to their table.   

We trust this information assists you and goes some way to assuring you of our commitment to our customers at all times.    

Thank you for taking the time to contact us once again.  

Yours sincerely

We can confirm that all pubs meet applicable accessibility legislation and requirements that were in place at the time they were constructed. Errmm, clearly not!!

And finally, my last reply:

Dear (different Ms X),

Thank you for your reply.

Basically you gave the same response as Ms X No. 1, only you used more words to say it!

Indeed the pub may well have “meet applicable accessibility legislation and requirements that were in place at the time they were constructed”.  (I noticed your play on words there).  So how long ago was the Webb Ellis in Twickenham last constructed?  It is of no relevance how well the pub met regulation then, it is how it meets regulation today and quite frankly….There are many many failures!

Many retailers/shops etc keep making the mistake in thinking that as long as they meet the needs of the DDA, then they are compliant!  No!  The DDA was replaced by another act in 2010, called The Equality Act 2010 (hence the name).  If you read my previous email in full, you would have read that this act (which replaced the DDA) clearly states, “reasonable adjustments” MUST be taken.  If yours and Kathy Long’s responses are anything to go by, then JD Wetherspoons/Webb Ellis refuse to make any adjustments at all.  This IS breaking the law!!

One more point, Mr “John Hutson has passed your email on to the customer services team to respond, as we look after any correspondence that relate to our customers on his behalf”.  I find this hard to believe as I contacted customer services directly in the first instance.  Hence the reply I received from Ms X No. 1!!  It was only after I received her reply did I ask for my complaint to be passed onto Mr Hutson.  Then I received your reply!!

It is deeply worrying and soul destroying that such a big company like JD Wetherspoons has such and ignorant attitude to accessibility and clearly has no desire to change such attitude.

As for future issues and speaking with the manager, there won’t be any as I refuse to ever spend my money with you company again.  Oh and I will be letting my family/friends know why!!

It is so sad that these companies feel they have no obligation whatsoever to make their business/premises accessible for ALL. I really do wonder how they sleep at night knowing they have just made a person feel so worthless, unimportant and a burden!!

What do you think?

***UPDATE**
22/4/19

I have decided to take matters further and make a formal complaint to the EASS ( Equality Advisory Support Service). I have been doing more research and I hope to have a quicker response than JD Wetherspoons gave me, because if I wish to make a claim in court, time is running out!

I will notify of any updates as they happen.

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