So, the end of the football season is here. And what an end it has been, with Southampton qualifying for Europe. Brilliant performances from everyone on the pitch. I have one very happy family of Saints’ fans. Including Hadley, who is so excited about the success of his football club and wears his red and white with pride!
But off the pitch is a very different story.
Still we have no news at all from Southampton FC about installing suitable changing and toilet facilities for their disabled customers. Which I find more than disappointing. To sit and watch my little boy sob because he can’t go and watch his team live at St Mary’s stadium, is heart-wrenching! He endures so much, more than any five year old child should have to cope with. All he wants to do is be able to go and watch his team with his friends and family, just like any other footie loving kid.
And why shouldn’t he? Because of a loo. That’s crazy isn’t it? For the sake of a few quid and a different type of toilet, a multi-million pound football club are basically saying he is not welcome. Is this really the world we live in? Do they really have no compassion?
Football is about being together as one because we all love the same thing right? Well apparently not if you have a severe disability. We are not currently part of that wonderful family. We don’t matter.
The clock is ticking now. We need a Changing Places facility at St Mary’s stadium for the start of next season. The club needs to say yes and get on with it. It’s urgent!
It pains me to have to make it formal, but I have had to make an official complaint now to the club about discrimination. That’s a big, bold statement. But one that I feel is justified.
I want to be able to tell my gorgeous little boy that his dreams can come true and he can go to St Mary’s with his grandparents, his nephew, his uncles, his sister and me, and watch his heroes.
Today I sent this letter to the club. On behalf of Hadley. But also on behalf of every Saints fan who needs these facilities. We are not alone in this. There are loads of us and our voices will be heard!
Dear Mr Rogers
Please accept this letter as a formal complaint of discrimination arising from disability and a failure to make a reasonable adjustment by Southampton Football Club.
Further to my letters to the Chairman, dated 8 January 2016 and my subsequent letter to which I have never had a reply, dated 22 February 2016, and previous letters and emails dated 15 Jan 2013, Apr 12 2013, 27 Jun 2013, 26 Aug 2014, 11 Sep 2014, 6 Jan 2015, 19 Jul 2015 and 15 Sept 2015 from my fellow football supporter Mr Tony Clough, pointing out the urgent requirement for ‘Changing Places’ facilities at St Mary’s Stadium, you have failed to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate your disabled supporters/customers.
Currently without a Changing Places toilet facility (with adult-sized adjustable changing bench and hoist, space for carers and large mobility equipment) my son Hadley, who is registered disabled and has Cerebral Palsy, has been forced to lie on urine-soaked toilet floors to have his nappy changed when visiting St Mary’s Stadium. He has also had to be dangerously lifted from his wheelchair manually in order to do so. Now that he is too heavy to lift in this manner, he is being forced to stay away entirely and is not able to visit to watch a live match at all, because you do not provide a suitable toilet and changing facility for him. This is extremely distressing for both Hadley and myself, as his mother, and is causing a tremendous amount of stress on both of us.
You provide toilets within St Mary’s Stadium for all other supporters/customers and so are not treating all customers equally. Not making reasonable adjustments and adding suitable facilities for those with more complex needs is discriminatory. Due to the length of time that you have been aware of this dangerous situation (over 3 years) and have not found a suitable solution, I feel the only way to progress now is to make a formal complaint.
The Equality Act 2010 (the Act) states my son is protected against unlawful discrimination by you as a service provider because of his disability.
Discrimination arising from disability is defined in the Act as:
- Unfavourable treatment, because of something arising in consequence of that person’s disability, and
- It cannot be shown that the treatment is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim (‘objective justification’).
The way in which my son has been treated cannot be objectively justified as reasonable adjustments were not put in place for him.
Under the Equality Act 2010, as a service provider, not only do you have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for an individual who is at a substantial disadvantage at that time due to their disability, you also have to take positive steps to ensure that you anticipate the needs of potential disabled customers before they access your service.
It may be that you:
- Change a provision, criterion or practice
- Change a physical feature, and/or
- Provide an auxiliary aid.
If it is reasonable for you the service provider to make an adjustment then it must be made. A failure to comply with this duty could be unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.
The adjustment which I consider that you have failed to make, is the installation of suitable toilet and changing facilities for disabled customers at St Mary’s Stadium; specifically an adult-sized changing bench or trolley, hoisting equipment and adequate space in order to undertake personal care and toileting needs for those with complex needs.
I would like you to respond to me in writing within 7 days from receipt of this letter with a view to resolving my complaint. In your response I would also like you to explain why you failed to make the reasonable adjustments and confirm that a suitable factiity for disabled supporters will be available for the start of the 2016/17 football season.
Mrs Sarah Brisdion
On behalf of Hadley Brisdion.