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New Scottish law could boost access to pubs

New Scottish law could boost access to pubs
14th May 2010 developer

A new law could force many pubs and clubs in Scotland to provide details of how accessible they are to disabled drinkers.

The law would apply to bars applying for new licences as well as existing pubs and clubs applying for major changes to their licensing conditions.

Local councils would publish the statements on their websites, so disabled people could check out access at a pub or club before they visit.

The new law has been proposed as an amendment to the criminal justice and licensing (Scotland) bill by Labour MSP George Foulkes, and should be discussed within the next month by the full Scottish parliament.

Foulkes took up the issue after being approached by wheelchair-user Mark Cooper, from Edinburgh.

Cooper launched a successful Facebook campaign – Barred! – after being told by an Edinburgh pub that it had no accessible toilet, even though it had level access.

Cooper’s campaign calls for improved access to Edinburgh’s pubs and clubs. His Facebook group now has about 1,100 members.

Cooper, now a parliamentary and policy officer with the disability charity Capability Scotland, which has taken up and expanded his campaign, said: “My friends encouraged me to start the campaign because they were sick of me complaining that this was always happening.

“I have been contacted by a lot of people through the Facebook group who say they have had similar experiences.”

He said he was “very optimistic” that the new amendment would make things easier for disabled people. “The amendment should allow disabled people to enjoy independent living and give them a greater freedom of choice about where to go out.

“All I want to do is to go and have a beer in a pub. I think the campaign has been so successful not because of me but because it is such a simple idea.”

Last year, a Capability Scotland survey found almost three-quarters of disabled people experienced access barriers when they visited pubs and clubs in Scotland, while 46 per cent wouldn’t know where to find information about accessible bars.

The charity is also in discussions with the pub industry about a possible voluntary scheme for bars and clubs to publish access information.