News reports have confirmed that a woman is pursuing legal action against the promoters of the group Little Mix, alleging that there has been disability discrimination. The woman is deaf and was part of a group of people attending a Little Mix concert, with the group involving others who were deaf. In advance, she contacted the promoters asking for assistance to be provided by way of a signing interpreter and that was only provided after a threat was made of an application for an injunction. When the woman attended at the concert a number of concessions were made, such as upgrading seats, but the signing interpreter was only provided for the part of the concert involving Little Mix. The person was not provided for the two support acts.
A claim is now being pursued for compensation and for an injunction requiring the promoter to provide this assistance for deaf people attending at future concerts. The Claimant relies upon the Equality Act and in particular the requirement upon businesses providing services to the public to make reasonable adjustments to arrangements for the service to reduce the potential negative impact upon a disabled person.
The Equality Act recognises that disabled people need special protection and a person who is deaf will satisfy the legal definition of a disability by way of a physical impairment. A deaf person attending at a music event clearly encounters a negative outcome as they are unable to hear the music, although they are able to see the show and to enjoy the other parts of the performance, such as dancing, the light show etc.
In this case the Claimant states that the negative impact (or detriment) would be reduced if a signing interpreter was provided, as they would then be able to follow the words being sung and spoken by the group and for example, they would know which song was being performed at the time. It seems to me that the claim is likely to be successful on these facts and compensation will be awarded. That will be assessed according to the usual range of factors for injury to feelings, with the lower bracket of Vento guidance now exceeding £8,000. In addition, I expect that some form of refund will be provided for the cost of the tickets as the whole event could not be enjoyed for the reasons outlined above.
During an interview on the radio, the Claimant’s solicitor referred to how the legal duty in this area is addressed by courts and tribunals. It was put to the solicitor that even a pub may need to arrange for assistance if a local band was performing. That is of course not correct, because the concept of reasonable in terms of adjustments takes account of the resources of the organiser of an event, and it would be absurd if every small venue was required to address matters, as would be the case when dealing with a main promoter. In the future, I expect that venues and promoters for larger events will start to arrange for signing interpreters to be available without having to be threatened with injunctions. This already happens when attending major conferences and bearing in mind the profits arising from major concerts, I do not consider that this step is unreasonable. Instead, it adds to the opportunities for disabled visitors to attend events and for the enjoyment of any concert to be accessible to all.