Disabled girl ‘mistaken for being drunk’ calls for door staff training

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A Derry woman who suffers from a mild form of Cerebral Palsy has told the ‘Journal’ how she has been refused entry to some local nightspots eight times in the last two years, because door staff thought she was drunk.

Rebecca Lovell called on those working in the hospitality trade, and door staff, to be given more disability awareness training.

The awareness campaign has been backed by leading disabled charity, Disability Action.

As a result of her condition, Rebecca often slurs her words and walks on the outside of her feet, - symptoms she says people can mistake for being drunk.

Rebecca said: “I usually try and explain to the door staff that I have Cerebral Palsy but they rarely want to listen. I have contacted pubs after incidents and they’ve apologised and organised free entry to the club only for the same thing to happen

“I’m just fed up with it at this stage.”

During the latest incident, Ms. Lovell says she was told: ‘You’re too drunk, you can’t come in’ and she simply walked away.

“It is embarrassing, people were stumbling in past me and because I walk differently I’m stopped at the door.”

The 22 year-old, who was awarded her BA/Hons Psychology degree from Magee University last year, said: “I try not to let my condition affect or limit my lifestyle and social life.

“That is now being curtailed by door staff when I’m out trying to enjoy myself though.

“The thing is, the more you insist you are not drunk the more you sound like you are - so you have to walk away.”

On the most recent occasion Rebecca, who works with disabled children, had gone into town to meet work colleagues in a city centre watering hole.

“I didn’t get in and despite telling the door staff I had Cerebral Palsy I was turned away.”

It is an experience the Cornshell Fields woman fears is shared by others with similar conditions.

Karen Hall, Disability Action communication manager, said: “It is certainly something we have encountered through the years.

“We would describe it as a common issue when people are out and about.

“We believe the issue should be part of the training for all door staff, they should be made aware of different disabilities and conditions, especially now as security staff have to be licensed.

“Raising awareness among those in the hospitality trade is a real issue for the disabled community. People should realise the impact they can have on, not just the nights out, but the lives of others.”

Rebecca Lovell said: “This is the City of Culture 2013 but yet disabled people cannot go for a drink without being refused entry.”

Admitting that she can see where an issue might arise due to her particular symptoms, Rebecca said: “It is the attitude you are met with when you try and explain. I think pub and security staff should have to undergo some form of disability awareness training especially as we are expecting lots of visitors this year.”