Of course it's all very well to end a post with 'It's time to fight back.' But how do we actually do it? How do we get some kind of justice when nobody is willing to help?
Our greatest strength is realising that we are on our own. Forget all the internet solicitors who advertisse No Win No Fee or that they will fight disability discrimination. Like the EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission), they too cherry pick what they will and will not handle. Indeed one solicitor advised me to go to arbitration as it was 'the only way' and refused to handle my case 'because it wouldn't bring in enough money for the firm.'
Even firms that HAVE handled high profile disability discrimination cases in the past, only seem to be interested if there is some union involvement. And if like me, you are a lone shopper, that makes you feel cut adrift, like a small sailor in an even smaller lifeboat.
One important thing to remember is that you have only sixth months from the date of the alleged discrimination to take the matter to court. So, for the time being, I continued writing letters to the parent company of the shop in question. They never disputed what I claimed, and offered first £25 in gift vouchers and then £50. At the same time there seemed to be very little understanding of what the disability discrimination legislation meant.
Disabled customers are, first and foremost, customers. They should therefore be valued. They spend money. You cannot treat them like perverts and lesser beings and seriously expect them to return bearing gift vouchers and wagging their tails.
But - as I had already found - nobody wanted to know. Nobody wanted to help - not even the people whose job it apparently was to deal with such cases.
So - what to do next?
Well, my first advice is NEVER go to the press. Not at this stage. Adverse publicity is a very useful tool, but you have to know when to choose it. It is definitely best held back as a bargaining chip. And of course, you have to be prepared to go the whole distance.
I suspect that there is a lot of bluff on the part of these big businesses. They know that most people won't pursue the matter. Therefore they can get away with it. By this stage it wasn't just about what had happened to me, it was about what would happen to other disabled customers if I didn't take a stand.
Nobody was listening properly. I had to do something. The courts seemed to be my only option.
In my next post I am going to take you through it step by step.