Frustratingly I started writing this post a month ago but RA life has gotten the better of me. Everyday is a Groundhog Day of never-ending pain, hospital appointments, sleepless nights, extreme exhaustion, waiting to see if my new biologic will help and of course RA brain fog. RA brain fog for those who don’t know is a side of the illness which makes the individual unable to focus on anything, this can be from simply getting dressed, to going in and out of a room ten times because you’ve forgotten what you went in for, to staring at five bottles of tablets unable to recall if you just took them or just thought about taking them. It’s like the brain is working overtime to cope with the physicality of RA and keeps short circuiting. It is as immobilising as the physical pain of the illness. In fact it is a physical effect of the illness except it is in the brain.

Also to be honest I have been finding all of this along with having to address the issue of disability discrimination very mentally draining and depressing. Unfortunately, big business can take advantage of this, cutting corners resulting in discrimination knowing the drawn out stress of a complaints procedure can deteriorate our health dramatically. Which is why many people with chronic illnesses either don’t complain or give up halfway through. This is also true of the government making disability cuts – another blog for another time.

On top of this myself and my partner have also been away for a few days to Portugal with friends. I say ‘on top of this’ as going on holiday is one of the most demanding activities for someone with RA. Not complaining though it was lovely to get away and hang out with some wonderful people, fab food and a change of scenery which is always good for the soul. However as always when anyone with RA goes away I have come back even worse, doh! Increased inflammation and what feels like razor blades wedged in my shoulders, spine, hips and toes. My toes have also started bleeding (sorry if you’re eating your lunch!) You may ask why go away when I’m feeling so rough? Well if I waited until I was ‘well’ I would never leave the house, let alone go on holiday! And quite frankly I love to ‘live’ and experience as much of life as possible.

I was going to insert a photo of my toes here but I thought you would appreciate this Portugal pic more…

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ITV Studios response

Anyway back to business – as promised this blog sites the ITV Studios response to my blog On My Last Legs to see The Last Leg which reported disability discrimination I received visiting the show a couple of months ago at the studios. Ironic given the show is hosted by disabled presenters. I detailed the lack of reasonable adjustments or adequate access policy for disabled people and the negative response I received on my visit as a result of this. There were a few organisations involved, SRO Audiences who provide tickets, The Last Leg, Open Mike Productions, Channel 4 where the show is aired and ITV Studios where the show is recorded. Ultimately it appears ITV Studios are responsible as it is their premises.

To Recap

After notifying the show a month in advance that I required disabled access (as I could not stand in the queue due to having Rheumatoid Arthritis) I was told a seats would be reserved for me and my partner. Yay! But the confusing access policy suggested even though seats were reserved they could also be given away…and that I may have to queue which kind of defeats the whole point of reserving a seat in the first place no? So I tweeted the great man Adam Hills himself who told me he would look into it and on the day of the show he contacted me saying the door staff were expecting me! Awesome! I thought.

Arriving at 8.45pm on the night I approached the door staff who said they had given my seat away 5 mins before the queue had officially started. The stated queue time was 8.40pm to 9.40pm, my seats were given away 8.35pm? Strange as there was now a growing queue waiting to enter, indicating there was clearly a studio full of empty seats inside so why give away the reserved disabled seats? 🤔

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SRO Audiences email for admittance to The Last Leg at ITV Studios 

This alone was bad enough but the manner of the door staff was rude and offensive. One Clipboarder flippantly said the seats had been given way ten minutes beforehand and I could come back another time – it had taken a month of planning for me to make it that night as it was! The other Clipboarder had her back to me the whole time myself and my partner talked to her. Dismissive of my disability she pointed out that if I come back another time I would still have to queue. When my partner explained that I had a chronic illness and couldn’t stand in the queue hence why I booked access seats, she added, ‘next time if you do come with someone who can’t queue up they can go and wait over there’ (gesturing in a random direction) Hmm, if you do come with..?? Hello, what am I? An apparition? I would love to have it easy and be able to simply stand in a queue rather than endure your offensive behaviour! Each time she could be bothered to address us was with contempt, like my disability was bothering her when she clearly had much more difficult things to deal with such as ticking off names on her clipboard.

This door staff commotion triggered the queue to turn on me with remarks of ‘queue jumper’, other offensive mutterings and intimating looks. This was all close up by the way, these people were right in front of me making the situation a whole lot more intimidating. Remember this is also a queue to see The Last Leg, a show built on disability. I was turned away in tears, feeling humiliated and violated made all the worse knowing this was a result of me having a disability.

It wasn’t that I didn’t get in to see the show, it was the whole experience including the rudeness and intimidation, all because of a lack of reasonable adjustments, which is required by law to give disabled people access to public places under the Equality Act 2010. When these reasonable adjustments are not in place inevitably discrimination occurs as disabled people are put at an increased disadvantage.

Unfortunately anyone reading these blogs with a chronic illness or disability experiences this discrimination regularly – it is especially true if you have the audacity to be young and disabled!! You’re quite frankly a pain in the arse! This was echoed in the huge public support I received including some fans of The Last Leg who said they wouldn’t be watching the show again. Adam Hills who tweeted that he was ‘fuming this had happened’. The Last Leg invited me back to see the show with a visit to the Green Room afterwards.

On this second visit I entered via a much more accessible entrance, however there were no disabled people there, just VIP ticket holders! I also received a negative response from the production staff in the Green Room when I suggested the more accessible entrance for future disabled visitors, to summarise the response was; it would be ‘difficult’ (yet I just entered via it), I was the only one this had happened to, the main thing is the show that night was good and my favourite punchline: it would show inequality to able bodied people! Good one! 😂 I did catch Adam Hills as I was leaving who apologised for what happened on my first visit. He said, ‘the (Last Leg) show champions physical disability very well but I realise that hidden disability is a whole other level which still needs to be addressed’.

The outcome of the blog The Next Leg that followed attracted many disability campaigners and journalists including Wow Campaign, Fightback4Justice, Sue Marsh writer for The Guardian and the infamous Diary of a Benefits Scrounger, journalist Mik Scarlet, Huffington Post to name but a few. I also received many messages from other people with chronic illness with similar stories and blogs, including one specific experience from the writer of Grumpy Spastic Woman who also encountered discrimination at the ITV studios to see The Last Leg! (I’m not ‘the only one’ then?)

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Blog excerpt from Grumpy Spastic Woman

There was also an amusing blog comment from an obvious production staff member who in short thought I should be satisfied I eventually got to see the show, should not be complaining about discrimination and that I would not be happy if a red carpet was laid out. Nice, your mother must be proud!

During all of this the lovely Cherylee Houston, Coronation Street actor and disability campaigner responded to my blog by tweeting ‘this is quite disheartening…this needs to change’ she also tweeted Miranda Wayland, the ITV Diversity and Inclusion Manager who pledged to pass the matter on to get investigated. A month later I received the highly anticipated response from ITV Studios:

Thank you for taking the time to share with us your concerns. We want everybody’s experience when they visit ITV to be a good one and hope to assure you that complaints of this nature are taken seriously.

We’d also like to apologise for your disappointment in not being able to see the show and for the delay in getting back to you. We needed sufficient time to investigate the issues raised and this required us to speak to a number of parties both within ITV, The London Studios and also Open Mike and SRO Audiences, the independent production company and ticketing/audience management company who make The Last Leg and issue ticket communication on behalf of The Last Leg, respectively.

From our investigation, It would seem the confusion was as result of the term “named seats”.

SRO Audiences who provide the tickets for The Last Leg have an access policy that advises appropriate seating will be made available for parties who advise them of accessibility needs, and these are “named”, meaning that when a guest who has advised us of their requirements arrives, we are able to direct them to the seating that we know meets their needs. The access policy does also say that notifying SRO audiences of special access requirements will not affect your position in the check in line, so it is still worth aiming to arrive on the early side, although the seats are named, if they are the last seats in the studio and people arrive before you, they will be released.

It is our understanding that for a number of reasons, one of which being inclement weather, audience seating allocation can begin earlier than the “doors open” time stated on guest arrival information, which is why we always advise guests to arrive early, and it did on this occasion. We fully appreciate that you you arrived only 10 minutes after the published ‘doors open’ time but on this occasion it seems that the queuing process had begun much earlier than may have been ordinarily expected, and this then resulted in all the seats that were named for yourself being released.

We understand your disappointment, and want to apologise once again that your experience of visiting us was not as we would hope it to be. The points raised is valuable feedback and we will continue to review process and guest communications to ensure that everybody’s experience is a good one, and there is greater clarity on arrival times and when tickets will be released.

However I want to offer absolute assurance that ITV’s process and policies are in complete accordance with the Equality Act 2010. We are committed to being an inclusive programme maker and broadcaster, we continuously review our policies and processes to ensure they are inclusive, and accessible, in accordance with the Equality Act 2010.

Many thanks and we hope that you will choose to visit us again in the future.

Best wishes

Madeleine

I was surprised and rather offended by the response. As you can see the email did not address the discrimination described in my blogs but simply focused on entry to the show. It surprisingly also reiterates the absence of reasonable adjustments within it’s access policy.

It would seem the confusion was as result of the term “named seats”

  • It doesn’t matter if the seats are called ‘named seats’ ‘reserved seats’ or ‘fairy seats’ the point is these seats are reserved in advance by the disabled person.

The access policy does also say that notifying SRO audiences of special access requirements will not affect your position in the check in line

  • A.k.a we have no access policy
  • An access policy that requires a disabled person to remain in line is not an access policy. This is the normal queuing process for able bodied people.

although the seats are named, if they are the last seats in the studio and people arrive before you, they will be released

  • Again this is not an access policy, to give reserved disabled seats away especially to able bodied people.
  • Also they were clearly not the last seats left in the studio, the queuing had just started and there was a growing queue outside.
  • People were still being let in after we arrived.

inclement weather, audience seating allocation can begin earlier than the “doors open” time stated on guest arrival information

  • Let’s be honest when there’s ‘inclement weather’ in London the world knows about it, trains stop and schools close.
  • There was no inclement weather that evening, just a regular slightly cold London day. No heavy rain, no snow, no meteor showers.
  • More to the point, in the case of ‘inclement weather’ given the arduous journey in travelling to the studios due to the health and physical difficulties of disabled people, isn’t this even more reason to ensure the seats are kept for the disabled person who booked them?

we continuously review our policies and processes to ensure they are inclusive, and accessible, in accordance with the Equality Act 2010.

  • You have not reviewed your policy since I or previous visitors have raised complaints about the lack of reasonable adjustments according to the Equality Act 2010 at the ITV Studios
  • In the Green Room The Last Leg Executive Producer Ben Wicks and Line Manager Sarah Croker told me changing the access policy ‘would be difficult’
  • Sarah Croker said the appropriate access arrangement I described would show inequality to able bodied people (even though this would simply be the same entry currently used for those with VIP tickets – yes able bodied people with VIP tickets)

I fulfilled my end of the contract I expect ITV Studios to fulfil theirs when I or ANY other disabled person arrives. There is no mention of the disability discrimination I described in depth in my blogs. The discrimination which stirred so much public response and resonated with many leading them to share their stories of similar experiences at ITV Studios. In fact – apologies – there was one reference to discrimination and that was – that there wasn’t any!

I want to offer absolute assurance that ITV’s process and policies are in complete accordance with the Equality Act 2010. We are committed to being an inclusive programme maker and broadcaster, we continuously review our policies and processes to ensure they are inclusive, and accessible, in accordance with the Equality Act 2010.

Consulting a Human Rights Lawyer and Equality Advisory & Support Service 

I found the reply quite brazen as I had already stated exactly how ITV Studios had contravened the Equality Act 2010 for the disabled person also known as ‘a protected characteristic’. It seemed I needed back up. This contravention actually comes under the Human Rights Act, so I consulted with a Human Rights Lawyer and the Equality Advisory & Support Service who specialise in advice on two main areas of law, the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998. And it seems I am not going mad, the points I raised in my blogs are accurate; ITV Studios are not complying with the Equality Act 2010.

The below letter is from the Equality Advisory & Support Service:

I understand that you were booked to go and see a production of the Last Leg, you had informed them that you had a disability and requested to reserve seats so you could get there and sit down. However when you got there you found that they had given your seats away so you missed the show and (next time) you would have to wait in line with everyone else, or they said that you would have to sit while your carer waited in line. You raised this to them and they offered you to see the next show, where you tried to bring the issue up multiple times but ITV staff avoided the question.

Before I take you through the advice, I would like to tell you a bit more about the Equality Advisory & Support Service and the support and advice we give. We are able to give specific advice on two main areas of law. The first being the Equality Act 2010, which protects individuals from discrimination if targeted at one of the 9 protected characteristics. The second is the Human Rights Act 1998.

If you wish to discuss the merits, seek legal advice or take legal action for your case we suggest that you talk to a solicitor. The Equality Advisory & Support Service aims to try and help you resolve issues informally, using the laws that are relevant.

For the Equality Act to apply to you then you would have to meet the definition of disability which is slightly different from elsewhere. The Act’s definition of disability is ‘A mental or physical impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’ Breaking this down there is a set of criteria that has to be met:

  • It is a physical or mental impairment – it doesn’t have to be diagnosed, but having a diagnosis could help, as you may be asked to provide a certain amount of proof.
  • It has a substantial adverse effect on normal day to day activity – with this it look at the condition at its worst and without medication or coping strategies and how it would then affect normal day to day activities, like cooking, getting dressed, standing for long periods of time or walking short distances.
  • It has a long term affect – this means that it’s lasted or is likely to last more than 12 months, or could last the rest of your life.

If you meet this definition then the Reasonable Adjustment Duty could apply to you. The duty to make reasonable adjustments requires places such as services to make reasonable adjustments for those who have disabilities. It’s triggered by three different things:

  • The provision, criterion or practice – how the company goes about doing things, some of the rules they have in place.
  • Physical features – this would include stairs and doors.
  • Absence of auxiliary aids – lack of providing a hearing loop or one on one support.

If the absence of auxiliary aids, physical features or current practices carried out put you at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled person in a same or similar circumstance then you can request reasonable adjustments, in your case this was the reservation of seats so you didn’t have to stand in the queue.

Services do have an anticipatory duty to make adjustments for disabled people, however they can’t make provisions for every disability, so sometimes you would need to notify them beforehand. They can refuse a reasonable adjustment request on the grounds that it’s unreasonable to do, they would have to give a reason as to why it’s unreasonable to do. If they don’t give a reason as to why they can’t accommodate this reasonable adjustment, or they directly contradict the adjustment that you’ve asked for then that could be a failure to make reasonable adjustments.

A failure to make reasonable adjustments is unlawful under the Equality Act. The reasonable adjustment duty is there to minimise the disadvantage that disabled people face, it’s individual to each person and an argument of “it wouldn’t be equal for those who are not disabled” well the reasonable adjustment duty is there so you can access the service at the same level as people who aren’t disabled not putting you at an advantage.

If you feel that it could be a failure to make reasonable adjustments then you might want to raise a formal complaint about this to ITV and the production company, detailing a resolution that you would like. Escalating this complaint as far as possible. If that doesn’t resolve the issue then you could be looking to take this further to a county court. There are time limits to submit a claim to a county court and these are 6 months minus one day from the date of the incident.

In summary; if you feel it could be a failure to make reasonable adjustments then you might want to complain and escalate that complaint, if you don’t get the resolution that you are looking for then the next stage would be to take this to a county court.

Thank you very much for your email. If you have any more questions please don’t hesitate to contact us again and to keep us updated on the situation.

Regards
Equality Advisory Support Service

ITV Studios not only did not provide reasonable adjustments, they provided ‘unreasonable adjustments’ by offering reserved seats to a disabled person – only to give them away before the queuing time even starts – to able bodied people. I was also told I should stand in the queue. These criterion all increase the obstacles for the disabled person. That’s right, the access policy at the ITV Studios increase the access difficulty for the disabled person. I would not have planned a month in advance and changed all my chemo, biologic treatments and hospital schedules for that week had I known my seat would be given away before the queue time had started. And I certainly wouldn’t have attended had I known the lack of reasonable adjustments would mean obnoxious door staff and leave me exposed to a queue throwing insults at me.

The ITV Studios access policy is a half arsed attempt to appear to be complying with the Equality Act 2010 without actually complying with the Equality Act 2010 in any way whatsoever. It doesn’t matter that the ITV Studios claims that reserved disabled seats can be given away, or that disabled access depends on the weather, the fact is that none of this has any part in a lawful access policy so for ITV Studios to keep reiterating these criteria just further proves that the policy does not adhere to the Equality Act 2010 which means ITV Studios discriminates against disabled people having the same human right to access their premises as able bodied people. Equity.

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Definition of equity

Apart from the factor of reasonable adjustments, in The Next Leg I clearly described how I received the four types of discrimination (direct, indirect, harassment and victimisation) at ITV Studios as outlined under the Equality Act 2010 as a protected characteristic (disability is a protected characteristic) but will again do so here:

Direct Discrimination – treating someone with a protected characteristic less favourably than others

  • Door staff treated me less favourably than the able bodied visitors and were hostile when I told them I was disabled and had reserved seats
  • One door staff had her back to me the whole time, was very dismissive and rude
  • I was told my seats has been given away, I reserved these a month beforehand as I cannot stand in a queue
  • I was told next time to queue with everyone else despite me being unable to stand in a queue
  • This situation created a hostile environment around me with the queue name calling.
  • We were told if the disabled person cannot stand in the queue then they would be split from their companion who still has to queue while they wait somewhere else despite able bodied people not being split up
  • This is unethical and discriminatory towards disabled people and frankly is time wasting causing even more confusion in the queue.
  • By not having a suitable access policy or reasonable adjustments in place at the ITV Studios as outlined in the Equality Act 2010, I experienced direct discrimination.

Indirect Discrimination – putting rules or arrangements in place that apply to everyone, but that put someone with a protected characteristic at an unfair disadvantage

  • The ITV Studios access policy put me at a disadvantage as it essentially does not exist.
  • The disabled person has to queue with everyone else
  • The disabled person can reserve a seat but it may can be given away before the queue time commences
  • Therefore the gesture of reserving seats is meaningless
  • As explained it took a month for me to plan that visit so there was no way I was not going to turn up on the night. That is the same for any disabled person. We plan supermarket trips days in advance!
  • I was put at unfair disadvantage because the only reason I was able to attend the show was to have seats reserved which were given away so I was turned away at the door.
  • Sarah Croker raised concerns of inequality to able bodied people in changing the access policy. By very nature, this statement puts disabled people at even more of a disadvantage stripping us of equity.
  • The reasonable adjustment duty exists so disabled people can access the service at the same level as people who aren’t disabled.
  • By not having a suitable access policy or reasonable adjustments in place at the ITV Studios as outlined in the Equality Act 2010, I experienced indirect  discrimination.

Harassment – unwanted behaviour linked to a protected characteristic that violates someone’s dignity or creates an offensive environment for them

  • The ITV door staff actions stripped me of my dignity and humiliated me.
  • My disability was demeaned
  • Their attitude created an offensive environment around me from the rest of the queue.
  • By not having a suitable access policy or reasonable adjustments in place at the ITV Studios as outlined in the Equality Act 2010, I experienced harassment.

Victimisation – treating someone unfairly because they’ve complained about discrimination or harassment

  • On my return visit to the ITV Studios I received hostility when I explained the poor access policy caused my discrimination experience.
  • Ben Wicks said, ‘well, there has never been any problems before’ repeating ‘the main thing is you enjoyed the show’
  • Though attempting to isolate me into thinking I was the one with the problem, I have subsequently received cases confirming this has happened before.
  • Sarah Croker said changing the access policy would cause inequality to able bodied people, by very nature, this statement puts disabled people at even more of a disadvantage.
  • The reasonable adjustment duty in the Equality Act 2010 exists so disabled people can access the service at the same level as people who aren’t disabled. It does not put disabled people at an advantage but at a level playing field.
  • Both Ben and Sarah continuously told me the access policy could not be changed.
  • By not having a suitable access policy or reasonable adjustments in place at the ITV Studios as outlined in the Equality Act 2010, I experienced victimisation when I complained about discrimination.

At the age of thirteen when I was diagnosed with RA, I had no idea what was in store for me. Probably a good thing. It seems with having a degenerative chronic illness, comes not just the fight of the severity of the illness; the everyday physical and emotional pain with life long gruelling medications, but also the fight in society – to be seen as a worthwhile person who has equity to a life like our able bodied counterparts; to live above the bread line, to have relationships, to dress nicely and to access premises without discrimination whether that be a shop, airport or television studios.

With a new series of The Last Leg covering the 2016 Rio Olympics coming up I really hope the show will take greater responsibility for their disabled visitors. Although ITV Studios are ultimately responsible because it was their premises, it is quite shocking to have disability discrimination now associated with The Last Leg – a show which champions disability. And even more so that the show’s Executive Producer Ben Wicks and Line Manager Sarah Croker were further discriminatory and patronising of someone who had already experienced disability discrimination visiting the show they represent. Also disappointing for Channel 4 who are the original pioneers of addressing important issues in society and have launched Year of Disability for 2016 to increase the representation of disabled people in broadcasting. Shame we can’t simply get access to see one of your shows though! 😕

I have made an official complaint to ITV Studios but am afraid to say due to their above response, I am unhopeful for their acknowledgement that they do not comply to the Equality Act 2010 or to the reasonable adjustments duty within the act. You would have thought such an issue that went viral would lead a corporation to take immediate action to ensure their access policy is changed to comply with the laws on basic human rights and equality. You would have thought ITV Studios would want to be seen as a leader in the fight against discrimination. But instead ITV Studios have responded by reiterating the lack of reasonable adjustments in their access policy, belittling my complaint and washing their hands of any responsibility of what happened to me and therefore every other disabled person.

ITV Studios may have felt complacent when they sent their reply to my complaint, being a big corporation it is easy to be obnoxious and dismiss any utter of discrimination like dirt on a shoe. However, ITV Studios you may win in terms of power and money but believe me in this case you are morally bankrupt.

There would be international uproar if a major corporation such as ITV Studios made it especially difficult for black people or women to enter their studios, yet race and gender are also protected characteristics. It seems disability is the last taboo in discrimination even though it is written in law. It does not give me confidence in society’s view of the disabled person in 2016. There are still hateful people who feel disabled people have nothing to complain about, should stop fighting for our rights and accept our place in society as a second class citizen. Well they are no different to racist, misogynist and gay bullying bigots.

I wonder if in thirty years time we will be looking back at corporations like ITV Studios who enable disability discrimination, like we view the bed and breakfast or shop signs of the 1960’s that read ‘no Irish, no blacks, no dogs’? A mere difference between overt and covert discrimination but discrimination all the same. My experience to see The Last Leg at the ITV Studios prove we have a long way to go but it is important we as disabled and chronically ill people continue to fight for our basic human rights.✊

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Kofi Annan, 7th United Nations Secretary General

2 thoughts on “ITV response to The Last Leg

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