I’ve just read an article about Ben Gerrard, a Brighton man with Tourettes who was asked to leave a shop because of his tics. Ben had popped into a hardware shop after work to buy some tools when he was ordered to leave by the owner of the shop for ‘Making silly noises.’
Ben explained that his tics, which include grunting, simple noises and the phrase ‘Cheeky monkey,’ were because he had Tourettes, but the shopkeeper wouldn’t listen.
Sadly though, his story doesn’t surprise me. I’ve experienced similarly distressing encounters and I’ve read other articles recently describing similar incidents. The reason this account stuck out and why I’m writing about is because of a quote from the shop’s owner.
He’s reported to have said he knows what Tourettes is but that nevertheless he was ‘Perfectly entitled’ to throw Ben out of his shop. But he wasn’t entitled to do this at all, and his actions were unlawful.
Section 29 of The Equality Act 2010, states the following in regard to the provision of services:
(1) A person (a “service-provider”) concerned with the provision of a service to the public or a section of the public (for payment or not) must not discriminate against a person requiring the service by not providing the person with the service.
(4) A service-provider must not victimise a person requiring the service by not providing the person with the service.
In ordering Ben out of the shop on the grounds of his disability the shopkeeper was in breach of both these clauses.
The enforcement of the act relies on an individual who’s been discriminated against making a claim for damages or on the Equality and Human Rights Commission taking the company to court. This is quite difficult and is likely to mean that lots of relatively low-level acts of discrimination will go unchallenged. But these small acts can have a big impact on individuals.
While I’m pleased that the newspaper reported Ben’s experience and highlighted his abhorrent treatment, it didn’t mention the Equality Act. I think it’s important that such incidents are understood to be not only disgraceful but also unlawful.
So if you find yourself in Brighton, why not pop into Aird and Co tool shop on Bond Street and let them know about the Equality Act?