We’ve all been on a night out and had issues in a pub/club… sleezeball won’t leave you alone or think it’s ok to have the hands of an octopus, you accidently knock someone and although you apologise you get the evil daggers and you know it’s going to end badly etc etc. It’s times like this that door staff are generally (although not always) a godsend and make you feel safer. Now go out with a group of people who are Deaf or have disabilities and I guarantee to you the chance of you having trouble increases. Thirty three percent of disabled people between the ages of 15 and 34 have reported that they have been a victim of harassment due to their impairment and that is only those who have reported – it’s easy to see that the number is likely to be much higher. I have lost count of the number of times I have been out and someone thinks it funny to wave their hands in your face and pull stupid faces whilst pretending to use sign language and generally behave like a dick and take the piss. Most of the time these occasions are just shrugged off and ignored, it’s easy to pity idiots that behave like this but sometimes thinks become darker quickly, especially when the door staff do not have a clue when it comes to deafness and disabilities.
One particular time comes to mind for me when I went out with a group of friends. Door staff had run through the club trying to get to a fight that had broken up at the far side of the dance floor. Shouting everyone to move out of their way as they charged through the crowd they failed to take into consideration there was a large group of Deaf people (me being one of them) and literally barged us out the way to get through. One of my friends was hurt and a few minutes later went to see the door staff to complain. Now I am the first to acknowledge then when a Deaf person is agitated or excited that person using British Sign Language can look aggressive when they are not, but within seconds he was on the floor and the police were being called. It turns out that the doorman had taken particular offence to being pointed at. Had the door staff had any awareness of BSL and Deaf culture they would have realised that pointing is part of the language and that facial expression and abrupt movements are also part of the language and are not necessarily signs of aggression. Luckily things ended ok this time but really there was no need for what happened.
Reflecting on these experiences make me especially proud that Enhance the UK have launched a campaign for better access and disability training for door and security staff qualified through the Security Industry Association – SIA – a government run agency. This campaign was launched after one of our trainers with a guide dog was refused access into a bar by a doorman who proceeded to push him and say no dogs. On investigating further it became clear that there is much more that the SIA should be doing to prevent incidents like this happening.
The SIA, was set up to deliver regulation to the security industry and improve standards. One of their advertised objectives is to deliver standards which meet the needs of their customers. One way in which they attempt to do this is by ensuring that all security staff including door staff working in clubs and pubs have to hold licenses granted by the them. To hold a license security staff must hold a qualification endorsed by the SIA and all courses must cover the specifications for learning and qualifications laid out by them. Shockingly there is currently limited requirement for security staff to have training around disability awareness and no quality control on said training. In a society where people with disabilities are twice as likely to have suffered a violent attack and who experience negative attitudes and prejudice on a regular basis is it too much to ask that the SIA ensure that all security staff have an adequate understanding of disability and equality issues relating to disability?
Through lobbying and campaigning Enhance the UK has recently had two very productive meetings, the first with managers of the SIA and the second with Justin Tomlinson MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Disabled People) and Norman Lamb MP (Shadow LD Spokesperson on Health). We have been assured that this very important area is now being looked into seriously and we are committed to continuing to campaign until positive change takes place.