More than 8 in 10 face difficulties in pubs and bars

Our latest research has found 86% of disabled people face difficulties when accessing pubs and bars.

Pubs are part of our national tradition and nobody should be made to feel like they are not welcome.

Husna Mortuza, Head of Policy and Campaigns
  • 86% face difficulties accessing pubs and bars, according to Leonard Cheshire’s survey.
  • 45% experience negative attitudes from staff and 35% experience negative attitudes from other customers because of their disability.
  • Disability charity calls on all pubs and bars to invite everyone in for a drink this December.

Not everyone feels welcomed in for a drink during the festive season, with more than 8 in 10 disabled people facing challenges accessing pubs and bars, according to those who took part in a survey by Leonard Cheshire disability charity.

Almost half of those surveyed (45%) said they had experienced a negative attitude from staff, while a third of survey respondents (35%) said they have faced negative attitudes from customers.

‘I find security staff treat me like a health and safety risk,’ said one survey respondent.

Another commented:

“People stand looking at you, blocking the way. [You have] difficulty hearing what is being said.”

For some, it was enough to stop them going out altogether, with Stewart from Birmingham, saying it: ‘stops me meeting and sharing experiences with friends.’

William Ogden, 27, from Farnborough, also had to avoid his local, after his disability led to him being barred:

‘I went to purchase a cake, but I did not hear the bar staff telling me to not touch it myself.

‘She called over a bouncer. I explained I was deaf and I could not hear her, but I was barred for a year!’

Beyond staffing issues, for people with a range of disabilities, it was pub layouts, toilets, menus, bar heights and step-free access that also proved to be the sticking points.

One respondent revealed:

‘High up bars mean I can't get served because [staff] can't see me.

‘Layout of tables is often very difficult to navigate in a wheelchair or lack of lowered seating means I can't get to a table.’

Leonard Cheshire wrote to three of the leading pub and bars companies, as well as contacting another via their website, to find out about their disabled customer provisions.

Only Wetherspoons responded and encouragingly their spokesman Eddie Gershon said:

‘We are proud of the facilities that we offer to our customers with disabilities.

‘Our aim is to make each and every one of them as welcome in our pubs as possible.

‘We are especially proud of the Changing Places facilities in a number of our pubs which are very welcomed by the people and their families who need them.

‘We are looking to add more Changing Places in our pubs in the near future.’

But even if pubs adapt, a culture change also depends non-disabled customers.

As one respondent revealed:

‘It does not feel socially acceptable to ask somebody for a seat in a pub.

‘I do not use a wheelchair, walking stick or other mobility aid and yet I have chronic pain and a physical disability, so I can't stand up for long periods.

‘This "invisible" disability makes accessing such venues tricky. There is the issue of people bumping into you and not being spatially aware!’

Leonard Cheshire’s Head of Policy and Campaigns, Husna Mortuza said:

‘Pubs, bars and the public who use them need to do much more to allow disabled people to go out and socialise in the same way as non-disabled people.

’Pubs are part of our national tradition and nobody should be made to feel like they are not welcome.

‘This isn’t just about drinking; pubs are a great way to get out and avoid social isolation.

‘Disabled people shouldn’t miss out, during the holiday season or any other time of year.

‘If pubs and bars take note, they also stand a chance to cash in on the £249 billion that the disabled person market, also known as the “purple pound”, is worth.’

Media enquries

For further information, interviews, video footage and hi-res photos, please contact Claire Farrell in Leonard Cheshire’s external communications team on or call 020 3242 0204. Out of hours contact: 07903 949 388

Additional quotes

  • Morvenna, 52 from West Wales, who has myofibrillar myopathy, said: ‘I do miss going to live music events the most.’
  • Mark Cooper, who led a campaign in Scotland for better access information on pubs and bars said: ‘It’s important for disabled people and their families to socialise without worrying about the kind of facilities that non-disabled people take for granted. Disabled toilets are crucial for a range of disabilities, but a lot of accessible features don’t necessarily mean big changes. It might just mean a large print menu. For people with mobility issues, if pubs and bars always have one table with a chair taken away, there’s already space waiting for you. I know lots of pubs and bars are struggling financially; but the adjustments they may need to make needn’t cost lots and it could help publicans boost revenues through extra custom.’
  • Further available on request

Notes to editor

Survey of over 130 people, conducted online between October and November 2018. This data is not representative of a wider population, nor is it weighted.