The Equality Act 2010 was introduced to ensure that those with protected characteristics are safeguarded against discrimination. ‘Disability’ is defined under Section 6 of the Equality Act 2010 as a person who ‘has a physical or mental impairment and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on P’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities’.
Those who suffer with a disability, such as Mr Plummer in this case, have a right to request reasonable adjustments under Section 20 of the Equality Act 2010.
S20 provides for the following:
- If a provision, criteria or practice puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled, reasonable steps should be taken to avoid the disadvantage;
- If a physical feature puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled, reasonable steps should be taken to remove the physical feature;
- If a disabled person would, but for the provision of an auxiliary aid, be put at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled, steps must be taken, if reasonable, to provide the auxiliary aid.
S21 defines a failure to comply with this duty of providing reasonable adjustments as discrimination against that person.
This case witnessed the struggle faced by Mr Plummer, a 64 year old man who suffers with multiple sclerosis. Mr Plummer and his wife purchased a flat within the Royal Herbert Pavilions back in 2010. The site boasted a renovated leisure club, owned by the same management company, Royal Herbert Freehold Ltd. Mr Plummer purchased the flat on the basis that he would have access to all facilities. These facilities included a swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a gym, a sauna, steam room and solarium.
Due to Mr Plummer’s multiple sclerosis, swimming was one of the few activities which could be enjoyed independently and safely. However, he had difficulty accessing the swimming pool. Mr Plummer asked the management company to arrange reasonable adaptations and they refused.
Royal Herbert Freehold Ltd applied a policy of only undertaking works that benefited all residents.
The management company also sent a survey to all residents, asking for their opinion on Mr Plummer’s request for adaptations. This action was profoundly humiliating and degrading for Mr Plummer and his feelings.
Mr Plummer was successful in his case against Royal Herbert Management Ltd. The company was ruled to have breached its duty, as a service provider, to make reasonable adjustments. They had also indirectly discriminated against Mr Plummer when applying a discriminatory practice in what works it undertook. The Court awarded Mr Plummer £9,000 in damages for injury to feelings.
An influencing factor in the amount of damages awarded was delay. Mr Plummer moved in to the property in 2010 and had to endure hardship for 8 years before the adjustments were made so that he could use the pool.
This case is considered to be a landmark case for those who suffer with disabilities.
If you experience a similar situation or act as deputy and require advice on behalf of a protected party, please contact a member of our Court of Protection team for initial guidance.