Pub bid hope for wheelchair user

A WHEELCHAIR user is set to win his fight over disabled access in pubs.

Mark Cooper, who has cerebral palsy, has brought disability groups and the licensed trade together in support of changing the law to promote better information on what facilities are available for disabled people. Now the Scottish Government has signalled privately it is willing to agree the proposed change in legislation which would require landlords to spell out in licence applications whether their premises are accessible and what facilities they offer.

The amendment to the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill, proposed by Lothians Labour MSP George Foulkes, is expected to be debated in Holyrood within the next few weeks.

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Mr Cooper, from Gracemount, launched his "Barred" campaign after he had to leave a city pub on a night out with friends after discovering it had no disabled toilet.

He made clear all along he was not trying to force pubs to make unrealistic alterations, but wanted to ensure basic information was made available.

He said: "For many disabled people in Scotland, not just wheelchair users, stepped front access, heavy doors, inaccessible toilets and a lack of good information about access can make going out for a drink impossible or unnecessarily difficult. The 'Barred' amendment has never been about being anti-pub. We fully accept that the licensed trade is struggling at the minute and understand that adaptations in some circumstances can be either too expensive or impossible to make.

"What we cannot accept is that disabled people and their friends and colleagues are still finding it so hard to go for a pint."

Mr Cooper, now policy officer for Capability Scotland, said he was delighted the campaign had got to this stage.

Patrick Browne, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, backed the move to make more information available as "a step forward".

Lord Foulkes said he had held talks with Communities Minister Alex Neil on the amendment and was optimistic it would be accepted.

A Scottish Government spokesman said ministers were still looking at the amendment. But a source said: "There is a clear consensus on this."