Edwards v Flamingo Land Ltd is a Court of Appeal case on the duty on service providers not to discriminate on the grounds of a customer's disability. The case was brought under the Disability Discrimination Act but the law is the same under the Equality Act.
The respondent operated a theme park which included a restaurant and bar area. Whilst at the theme park, the claimant (who had Down's syndrome and autism) and her family wanted to have a meal. They sat at a picnic bench adjacent to the restaurant's outside seating area. The claimant's parents were told that they could not be served in the picnic area and, when they offered to carry the food outside, they were prevented from doing so by the manager. They attempted to explain that, because of their daughter's disabilities, it would upset her if she had to move but were asked to leave.
The claim that the restaurant had failed to comply with the duty to make reasonable adjustments for a customer with a disability succeeded before the district judge but was overturned on appeal, where it was found that the parents had failed to explain adequately at the time why their daughter could not move.
The Court of Appeal considered another ground to the restaurant's defence - that it was running a restaurant rather than a takeaway service and the duty to make reasonable adjustments does not require a provider to take any steps which would "fundamentally alter the nature of the service". The Court agreed that this defence applied, on the basis that an owner of a restaurant did not merely provide meals but delivered a service which involved "serving meals and drinks at tables prepared with chairs and eating equipment such as glasses and cutlery". That might be outside or inside but was usually within the area operated by the restaurant. It was different from the service of a takeaway which provided food and drink to be consumed away from the premises without any accompanying services.
Clearly the case turned on the particular facts, but one general point to note is that the Court relied heavily on the Code of Practice published by the Disability Rights Commission (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission) which makes it clear that the duty to make reasonable adjustments does not require a service provider to take any steps that would fundamentally alter the nature of its service, trade or business. A similar (but clearer cut) example given in the Code is of a restaurant being asked to make home deliveries.