Disabled boater gets ‘reasonable adjustments’: CRT reviewing its equality compliance

In what is believed to be the first decision of its kind, CRT has granted a disabled continuous cruiser’s request for ‘reasonable adjustments’ that he is entitled to under the Equality Act – but only for a temporary period. The boater is a Blue Badge holder.

The live-aboard boater, who needs a mobility scooter to get around on the land, informed CRT that he required them to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to their enforcement of Section 17 3 c ii of the 1995 British Waterways Act to prevent him from being substantially disadvantaged compared to an able-bodied boater. CRT has agreed that it will make the ‘reasonable adjustment’ of granting him temporary permission to moor for 14 days at the visitor moorings where he can get the mobility scooter on and off the boat. He required this adjustment to CRT’s enforcement procedure because he is unable to get the mobility scooter off his boat in most places on the K&A, because it is not possible to moor the boat close enough to the bank. The Equality Act means that he has the right not to be penalised if his disability prevents him from complying with CRT’s enforcement procedures. This agreed ‘reasonable adjustment’ is temporary until the end of March 2014 however, and will be reviewed when CRT’s legal team provides guidance regarding CRT’s relationship to the Equality Act.

CRT also appears to expect the boater to obtain a ramp to get the scooter on and off the boat, which he has considered but has not found one that he is able to lift. CRT also offered the boater another option of taking a winter mooring on a visitor mooring, even though winter moorings are not being offered on the K&A on visitor moorings. Although this is an adjustment of CRT’s policy of winter moorings on the K&A, it would only comply with the Equality Act if the boater had requested a winter mooring. It is discriminatory to offer a disabled person a service in return for a fee when an able-bodied person would not need that paid-for service. In some cases, discrimination on the grounds of disability, age, sex, race or any other characteristic laid out in the Equality Act is a criminal offence.

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Many disabled  and seriously ill boaters have fallen foul of CRT’s enforcement of section 17 3 c ii in the past, in situations where their disability or illness has either prevented them from complying with Section 17 3 c ii or where CRT has alleged that they are not complying with the Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring. Some have lost their homes as a result, or have been forced to pay for moorings that they cannot afford, do not want or are not convenient for their access to medical treatment. As BaNES Council has said in its report here, it is time that CRT met its legal obligations under the Equality Act.

Below is an example of a letter of complaint that could be used by disabled boaters without home moorings to require CRT to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in line with the Equality Act.

Kelly Radley
Internal Communications and Customer Services Manager
Canal & River Trust,
First Floor North,
Station House,
500 Elder Gate,
Milton Keynes MK9 1BB

kelly.radley@canalrivertrust.co.uk

Dear Ms Radley

This is a Level 1 complaint in line with your complaints procedure.

I am not satisfied with the way that I have been treated by the Canal & River Trust. I wish to inform you that I have a disability.

CRT has discriminated directly against me contrary to Section 15 of the Equality Act 2010. CRT has treated me unfavourably because of my disability in taking enforcement action against me for allegedly failing to comply with section 17 3 c ii of the British Waterways Act 1995 in circumstances where an able-bodied boater would be able to comply. CRT has provided me with no justification that this treatment is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

Pursuant to Section 19 of the Equality Act 2010, CRT is required not to apply its enforcement procedure to me in a way that puts me at a substantial disadvantage compared to persons who are not disabled. In other words, if I am unable to comply with Section 17 3 c ii in circumstances where an able-bodied person would be able to comply, you are not entitled to terminate my licence.

In addition, pursuant to Sections 20 and 21 of the Equality Act 2010 CRT is required to take such steps as are reasonable to avoid putting me at a substantial disadvantage compared to a person who is not disabled. This is because CRT’s enforcement of Section 17 3 c ii would result in the removal of my home from your waterways if you apply it to me in the same way that you apply it to boaters who are not disabled. You have failed to make such reasonable adjustments.

Pursuant to Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, I have the right to live in the community and to choose my place of residence; I am not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement, and I am entitled to support to facilitate living and inclusion in the community. The UK is a signatory to this Convention. Therefore, CRT is not entitled to dictate that I should not continue to live on my boat. CRT is obliged to facilitate my choice to live on my boat, and it is obliged to make the use of the waterways available to me on an equal basis to the general population in a way that is responsive to my needs.

In addition, your own policy (BW Disability Equality Scheme 2009) states on Page 6 that:

We shall:-
1. Ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are built into all our
policies and plans.
2. Ensure that staff are aware of and supported in meeting the needs
of people with disabilities.
10. Ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are taken into account in the delivery of services, promotional material, interpretation, education initiatives and special events.
13. Monitor and evaluate the impact we are having on people with
disabilities and take action as appropriate;

You have clearly breached this policy in my case.

In order to remedy my complaint I require you to take the following action:

1. The reasonable adjustment that I require is _ _ _ _ _ _

2. I require you to cease and desist from discriminating against me directly and indirectly on the grounds of my disability in contravention of the Equality Act 2010.

I look forward to your reply within 15 working days.

Yours sincerely

Harassed Boater

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