Here’s a piece I wrote recently for a Pagan blog:
I’ve been talking with people recently about UK disabilities legislation, which is not as well-known as it should be, so I thought I’d write it out for this blog. It seems to me important for those of us with disabilities to know that the law is, in theory at least, on our side.
Firstly there is the Human Rights Act 1998, under which disability is a “protected characteristic”, which means that discrimination on the grounds of disability is a breach of your human rights.
Secondly, and to flesh out the details, is the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which was later incorporated into the Equalities Act 2010. This states that if a person with a substantial and enduring disability makes a reasonable request to a provider of goods or services to the public, the onus is then on the provider of services to justify why this request cannot be met. If the two do not agree, and the person with the disability chooses to sue, ultimately it would be for a court to decide whether the provider was reasonable or not in turning down the request.
This law applies to anyone running a Pagan moot, event or ritual open to the public – although most Pagans don’t know this, and might be shocked to think it applies to them! Of course, a lot turns on what might be considered reasonable: if a group is in the habit of holding rituals in lonely and distant places, because that is part of how they work, then a request to hold it in the car park instead might not be deemed very reasonable. But if they were to choose a hard to reach venue, when there was an equally good one with disabled access nearby, you could expect them, in law, to choose the option that was most accessible if requested.
Of course, it’s unlikely that any of us would want to sue our local moot, and it wouldn’t do much to make us feel comfortable as part of them afterwards. But I do think it helps for us to know our rights, and to speak up for them. To have the confidence that we’re not just “being difficult”. This is part of our human rights in a civilised society.
I’ve never yet threatened to sue anyone, but my default expression is “I wouldn’t want to have to resort to legislation…”. Which is my polite way of reminding others that this law exists to be used, and we could appeal to it if we chose.