A 30 year-old Waterside woman with Multiple Sclerosis has claimed she was “robbed” of her dignity after a night out in the Bentley Bar in Derry’s city centre.
Nicole McCrudden, was diagnosed with M.S. in 2011 and is currently recovering from a relapse which lasted almost two months.
It was during a night out on June 7, 2015 that Nicole claims she was not able to use the disabled toilets in the Bentley Bar after staff told her the lift “had been turned off.” Furthermore, Nicole said her M.S. symptoms became so serious she was unable to leave the bar of her own accord. As a result of the lift not being in service she had to be carried, while sitting on a chair, by two door staff employees down a flight of stairs. The door staff then proceeded to place Nicole on the pavement outside the bar.
“I felt I was robbed of my dignity that night. As soon as I got home I cried myself to sleep. It was embarrassing, humiliating and intimidating.”
On August 1st, Nicole contacted one of the owners of the Bentley Bar to inform him of her experience and on the same day she received a reply and an indication that he would contact her to address the matter. Despite providing the owner with her contact number, no one from The Bentley Bar replied and she wrote to the owner again on August 27 and again on September 9 but no one replied to her messages.
“The last thing I want is my personal life printed for all to see, but when it comes to M.S. and when people with M.S. and other conditions are treated badly, I feel I have to speak out,” Nicole told the ‘Journal’ this week.
She claims the “humiliating” night out began when she was unable to use a lift inside the Bentley Bar to access disabled toilets.
“I went to use the lift and it wasn’t working. I asked a member of staff if they could switch it on as I needed to use the toilet. They went away and returned a short while later to say the lift couldn’t be turned on so then I asked if a member of staff could help me to the ladies’ toilet. Kindly they did - this all happened shortly before 11.00 p.m.”
“After using the toilet, I started to feel so unwell that I told my friend I wanted to leave and go home.
“I went to use the lift and again, it wasn’t working. I was told by a door staff employee the lift could not be turned back on until the end of the night. At this stage I was feeling really sick but given the fact it was around midnight and it was going to be less than an hour, I decided to wait.”
I felt I was robbed of my dignity that night. As soon as I got home I cried myself to sleep. It was embarrassing, humiliating and intimidating.Derry woman and M.S. sufferer, Nicole McCrudden
After the bar closed and customers started leaving Nicole decided she to try and use the lift again.
“This time the door staff told me the lift wasn’t working. I felt disgusted. I had to constantly explain to them that I had M.S. and just because my illness wasn’t immediately visible to them, it didn’t mean I was not very sick.”
It was, at this stage of the night out, that Nicole claimed she was left with no choice but to let the door staff carry her downstairs in a chair.
“Not only did they carry me down the stairs but they placed me on the pavement outside where I waited for a friend to collect me. They didn’t even let me wait inside until my lift came. It was very intimidating and one of the door staff told me ‘if you want a taxi all you have to do is walk around the corner’ and sniggered.
The ‘Journal’ contacted the Bentley Bar for a statement and a spokesperson said: “At the Bentley we are proud of our efforts to accommodate disabled customers. In fact, we have three disabled access toilets on the premises and believe in this instance our staff went above and beyond with regard helping Ms. McCrudden.
“The lift was unusable for a period of time as the fire alarm had been set off around 11.55 p.m. Once the alarm is inspected and reset there is a period of time where the lift drops to the bottom floor and is unusable for safety reasons.
“We completely refute all of the allegations made about our staff. Our record of events is that once we became aware of Ms. McCrudden having an issue with her M.S. a member of staff helped her to the toilet and then offered to help her outside for some air. She refused this offer and became quite agitated and verbally abused our door staff over the lack of lift access.
“At this point she told the staff that her friend was coming to collect her and at no point did she ask for a taxi to be phoned, in fact she refused a taxi that we had flagged down for her. She implies that she was seated outside and left to fend for herself whereas our CCTV shows a member of staff with her at all times. In fact the member of staff stayed for over 45 minutes after the shift was due to end to ensure that she got home safely.”