RBS guilty of “a social evil”

In the first ruling of its kind, a judge has ordered the Royal Bank of Scotland to install a lift so that a wheelchair user can have the same access as any other customer.

Furthermore, in recognising the embarrassing treatment the young man experienced at the hands of the bank, he was awarded £6,500 – the highest ever compensation payout in this kind of case.

In taking the case against the bank with the support of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, David Allen, a 17 year-old wheelchair user from Sheffield, has secured a historic legal victory.

Since the Disability Discrimination Act came into force in 1995, a judge has never before ordered an injunction to force an organisation to make physical changes to its property so that disabled people can gain access.

Mr. Allen’s case will help ensure that a great number of disabled people in Britain are able to access goods, facilities and services. His case was taken with the support of the Commission and he was represented by the Sheffield Law Centre.

David Allen’s legal battle began when, contrary to signage outside his local branch of the bank and information posted on its website, he found that he could not gain access. In a catalogue of incidents, David had to discuss his current account details in the street, breaching his right to confidentiality and causing him significant embarrassment. The bank then suggested that he should use the nearest accessible RBS branch, even though it was a 10 mile journey and amounted to a two and a half hour round trip journey by bus.

Judge Dowse of Sheffield County Court ruled that the Bank discriminated against Mr. Allen by not providing physical access to wheelchair users in its Sheffield city centre branch, and that the bank made no serious attempts to make the branch accessible to wheelchair users as required under the law.

In handing down his judgement, Judge Dowse said:

“In the light of the findings, I have made it is plain that David has suffered from discrimination and that he has suffered from considerable embarrassment caused by the Bank”.

Quoting a previous judgment, Judge Dowse described discrimination against disabled people as “a social evil”.

On hearing the Court’s decision, David 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.”

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