'Massive Gap' In Disability Awareness Of Club Bouncers

The bouncers at the Marlborough Hotel aren't the first to treat a disabled patron differently.

A Sydney pub has stoked outrage after allegations their security staff belittled and refused entry to a young woman with cerebral palsy who they claimed was too drunk to enter the venue.

Newtown's Marlborough Hotel issued a public apology on Facebook after swarms of people flooded the page with negative reviews, calling for a boycott of the establishment after it turned the woman away while she was celebrating her 21st birthday.

"We screwed up," the apology read. 

"Early Sunday morning we refused entry to a young lady as we believed she was intoxicated. Reality was she had cerebral palsy. And it was her 21st birthday. And we ruined her night."

The incident came to light after a woman posted a public message claiming her friend's "beautiful and inspiring daughter" was not only refused entry, but was "belittled and laughed at."

Several outraged commenters called for a boycott of the hotel, with many citing discrimination and an abuse of power following comments the security guards were seen mocking the 21-year-old.

Solotel, the venue's management, confirmed to ten daily the security guards involved "will no longer work at any Solotel venue" and the security company employed will undergo anti-discrimination training.

While not all cases are identical, this story doesn't stand alone, as Physical Disability Council of NSW Executive Officer Serena Ovens told ten daily.

“Unfortunately, it does happen," Ovens said.

"But I couldn’t say literally how common it is because many people would keep  it to themselves or just get frustrated."

The Marlborough Hotel is located on King St in Newtown, Sydney. Image: Google Maps

Ovens said a former disabled member of the PDCN's own staff experienced a similar incident first hand.

"She’s had exactly the same reaction where she’s gone into bars and pubs and clubs and because both her voice-- in terms of her speech-- and her movement is affected, it can look to someone who doesn’t know that she might be intoxicated."

Cerebral Palsy is an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting someone's ability to move.

While Ovens says training security guards to recognize "anything and everything" can be difficult, education and the simple ability to speak to someone respectfully are vital components.

The Training Bouncers Receive

The Australian Security Industry Association told ten daily during entry level training required nationally, security personnel do undergo communication training which involves education on differing abilities.

“In the security training package, which is a base requirement for licensing purposes, part of the training is communicating effectively with people," said Peter Johnson, ASIA's compliance and regulatory affairs adviser.

"That is the training that they are required to understand skills from different social, ethnic, cultural backgrounds and a varying degree of physical and mental abilities."

But Johnson admits this does not guarantee all staff will have a "good understanding" of people with mental or physical disabilities, and that the experience of the venue employing the guards and any additional training they provide comes into play.

But It Can Be Done

In 2014, Dapto man Mick Robson was ejected from a Wollongong club when bouncers mistook his cerebral palsy for intoxication.

Following the incident, disability workers held a training night for bouncers managing patrons with disabilities. The guards listened on as people with varying disabilities shared their experiences of trying to navigate the mainstream night-life that was, at the time, all that was available.

Beau Thatcher, a disability worker, later helped launch a monthly night club event called Ables, aimed at allowing people of all abilities to come together.

"We sat down with them and went through different scenarios, from people with down syndrome, people with cerebral palsy to people in wheelchairs and just RSA around that. What to look out for, what to expect," he told ten daily.

"Since doing that, we’ve never had a problem."

Thatcher says there is a "massive gap" in not simply training, but the awareness of bouncers when it comes to dealing with disabilities, leaving disabled patrons with almost no options for outlets to meet people and have a good time like everyone else.

“Pick out a security guard and ask them, 'what do you deal with?' They’ll go 'drunks, dickheads, this and that'. They won’t mention disabled people at all, because the gap is huge," Thatcher said.

"Name another venue that’s doing what we’re doing down here.”