Blood and Custard blog
Unacceptable Face of
The standards of today’s society have made racism, sexism, homophobia and bigotry socially unacceptable. However, in my opinion some consider disability-discrimination to remain acceptable even though it too is enshrined in the Equality Act 2010.
Unfortunately, disability-discrimination all-too frequently appears in the model-railway hobby; when it does it is quite revolting as those perpetrating the discrimination do not believe what they are doing is wrong, let alone morally repugnant (often bigotry if not in breach of the Equality Act 2010).
Similarly referring back to the well-known phrase ignorance is no defence this remains applicable for those running businesses, events, exhibitions or media outlets potentially including some social-media.
Equality Act & Reasonable Adjustments
The majority of these incidents come about through a failure to make reasonable adjustments; this being an obligation mandated in the Equality Act 2010. Whilst situations may arise where adjustments for disabilities cannot be achieved (it would be unreasonably practical to do so) I struggle to see valid reasons as to why reasonable adjustments cannot be made.
Sometimes this may be via an alternative solution. For example, my much-lamented local model-shop had a short set of four or five steps therein and (for reasons that aren’t important here) it was not reasonably practicable to install a lift /stair-lift. However, in taking on the premises the owner could fulfil his obligations under the Equality Act by letting mobility-impaired customers in via a rear-door or bringing items down to the lower (shop-front) level.
Accessibility at Exhibitions
Model railway exhibitions are providing a service for which they charge and obtain revenue. At these I’ve encountered many facets of disability-discrimination whether it has been stepped only access to parts of the venue, doors too narrow to let wheelchairs pass of basic lack of ‘facilities’ (often these are present but unusable). I could list many more….
It must be said that some of these events have excellent provision for those with needs.
In attending exhibitions in every instance of issues arising the attitude of the exhibition management towards making reasonable adjustments (sometimes there and then) has made all the difference. Some having been highly supportive. By comparison those who do not reasonably seek to make reasonable adjustments run the risk of falling foul of the Equality Act 2010 (disability-discrimination through a failure to make reasonable adjustments).
However, in choosing a venue the model railway exhibition management needs to consider carefully if the venue is suitable for use by disabled persons in order to fulfil the statutory obligations required by the Equality Act 2010.
Usually this would include undertaking an impact assessment which should consider what reasonable adjustments can be undertaken to ensure accessibility and facilities remain adequate. Not to do could place an exhibition management at odds with or even in breach of the Equality Act 2010.
That an exhibition has always used (say) an old venue with stepped-only access does not mean it is okay to continue holding events there. If reasonable adjustments cannot be fulfilled at a particular venue then the exhibition needs to find premises that can provide these.
Accessible Parking at Exhibitions
One of the significant problems attending exhibition is availability of blue-badge parking. If the venue is relying on (say) a municipal car park then that should have such provision.
However, if the car park is under the control of the venue (say using a school) then it is incumbent upon the exhibition management to ensure reasonable provisions are made and remain available for the duration.
It cannot be acceptable to state the school has a single blue-badge bay for its staff of twenty-five and that will suffice even when two-hundred and fifty are expected to be parking at any given time. That is clearly a nonsense and (I believe) somebody is potentially deluded to believe otherwise.
Equally to claim such parking will be self-enforced is an unacceptable response when clearly so many will just abuse the parking. In such a scenario both those parking in disabled /blue-badge bays and the exhibition management (who fail to prevent it when it is ‘reasonably practicable’ to do so) are discriminating against those with disability with indifference to the statute.
In the latter part of 2018 I attended two exhibitions; both being held in school halls only a few miles apart. Although the first (Worthing) was run by large a long-established club, the accessibility was woefully inadequate whether it be no provision for blue badge holders in the (advertised) car park (completely unstaffed) or the use of exhibition areas only accessible by stairs (which had no handrails). The other (Durrington) was run by a much smaller group, but upon arrival a member of staff was immediately assisting blue-badge parking before you entered the fully accessible venue.
Disability Discrimination & Bigotry on Forums
Recently on an enthusiast’s model railway forum this subject came up in response to an advertisement for a forthcoming model railway exhibition. Exchanges were well-balanced and informative (to all) discussing these issues when seeking to attend a model railway exhibition. Unfortunately, one of that forum’s moderators took great exception to this and removed posts without a reasonable explanation why. In doing to the double negative ‘not unsupportive’ <towards disability> phrase said it all.
The only opinion I could reasonably form was this forum as a whole was not supportive of those with disabilities. Indeed, by acting in the way it did was prejudice against railway modeller’s with disabilities and as such, the issues of disability in respect of model railways were not welcome or wanted – i.e. effectively saying just ‘go-away’ and ‘trouble’ someone else. In this respect the forum administrator has to bear some responsibility too, as the moderator was acting on their behalf with their implicit authority. For myself I could not in any way continue to support this forum choosing to rapidly distanced myself from them using Article 17 of GDPR to be ‘forgotten’ thereon
No doubt this moderator thought he was doing a ‘wonderful job’, without any reflection upon how his ‘bigoted’ action has been portrayed to others. Particularly at a time when (in my opinion) he actually needed to step down from all such roles having just brought the forum (and ultimately the hobby) into disrepute.
Subsequently the incident was briefly referred to (in reply to a query) on 2nd (professional) forum (run by a model manufacturer) the incident details were deliberately anonymised (i.e. the name of enthusiast’s model railway forum was not stated by this author).
Unfortunately, the moderator concerned moderated on both forums and considered it as being acceptable to (for want of a better phrase) try and ‘create an argument’ on the 2nd (professional) forum in respect of their earlier bigotry. In my opinion this was an unacceptable abuse of their role and (on a manufacturer’s forum) completely unprofessional whilst potentially bringing that manufacturer into disrepute /leading to possible allegations of that forum condoning discrimination.
Another unacceptable face of railway modelling perhaps?
Furthermore, in doing so (as an agent of these forums) this moderator potentially breached GDPR. Certainly, their actions were treated as harassment and subject to a complaint to the manufacturer concerned.
As a consequence (and after discussion with the manufacturer in respect of their forum who asked me to remain) I decided to simply withdraw from that forum too. As before, article 17 of GDPR was employed so I could disappear into obscurity thereon. Whilst this may have a negative impact on those seeking genuine support from other modellers, that negative impact has to be placed directly at the feet of those who perceive disability-discrimination remains acceptable – in particular the bigotry expressed by this bigoted moderator. Furthermore, forums who deem it acceptable for such persons to remain in positions of responsibility (such as moderation) have to accept criticism, responsibility and (if the situation arose) liability for the actions of their bigoted moderator.
I believe disability-discrimination remains an unacceptable face of railway modelling; forming part of an entrenched problem within parts of the hobby.
Obviously, there may be some who try to denounce the needs of (say) the disabled as ‘political correctness gone made’ but would these people still try to use say, the racist ‘N’ word – I doubt it. Ultimately the ill-informed ‘political correctness gone made’ response only serves to demonstrate further bigotry by those who have probably never experienced a disabling condition.
For myself, my decision was final and I will not be returning to these forums; nor will I knowingly support exhibitions that do not make reasonable adjustments for disabled persons. Indeed, I may choose to challenge serious exhibition failings to make reasonable adjustments (as I have now previously done so).
Whilst both forums promptly expedited my GDPR request, shamefully neither shewed any meaningful interest in dealing with the actual causation; in my opinion a bigoted forum ‘official’ (moderator) that considered disability-discrimination to be acceptable. On this basis these forums could also be accused of knowingly condoning discrimination through simple inaction.
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