Last weekend, after celebrating Brighton Pride, Jenny’s daughter Charlie was asked to leave a pub because she is disabled. Jenny chose to share their experience in a post on Facebook and the response has been amazing, with messages of support coming from hundreds of people. The post has now been shared over 1000 times, as well as in the media.
In this blog Jenny shares her story, why she felt she needed to write it, and why raising awareness of invisible disabilities is so important to her.
My 19-year-old daughter Charlie has two chromosome abnormalities and is a bit of an enigma. On the one hand, she is very innocent, child-like and can’t read or write but, on the other hand, she has a great vocabulary and wants to be a teenager, just like other young people her age. She will never be able to do things on her own because she is vulnerable and unaware of consequences. Anyone who has met Charlie will know that she is one of the sweetest people you could ever wish to meet.
On Sunday night, Charlie was thrown out of a pub in Brighton – for being disabled. There was only one other customer in the pub as everyone else was sitting outside on the benches. As we were being served, I suddenly noticed that Charlie was crouching quietly on the floor with her hands over her ears. She said it was because a sudden burst of loud music had startled her. The barman said she would have to leave.
I was shocked and explained that she was disabled, that the music had temporarily scared her but that she was okay now. He insisted that she was not welcome no matter how calmly I tried to explain why this was wrong. We had no option but to do as they asked.
Why I chose to share our experience
This was the first time I’d written about something like this. Brighton is quite an inclusive place and Charlie and I are quite well known. We’ve never really had much experience of negativity. When we were told to leave the pub, I tried my best to explain why it wasn’t acceptable in a calm, friendly manner, but they were just completely dismissive. They said “Right you’ve had your say, now you have to leave”. I was frustrated and sad, more than angry, about the injustice of it.
It affected Charlie very badly. She was devastated. She said she wanted to die, she said that she didn’t want to be disabled. She just thought everybody hated her. And I thought people don’t hate her, people really, really like her. So I just wanted to put it out there because it was so unfair and I thought people who knew Charlie would be able to say “Well Charlie’s lovely” because she is.
The response has been amazing
I just thought it would be shared among my friends so it’s very strange now that it’s been shared 1000 times! Charlie’s had so many amazing comments from lots of people, those who know her and people who are feeling the indignation on her behalf.
Charlie can’t read or write and never will be able to, but I’ve been able to read out the comments that people have left. It was amazing to get those supportive messages. And what has been particularly uplifting but also sad, is to see that so many other people have had similar experiences, all over. Not just in pubs but with the general public.
I want to raise awareness of invisible disabilities
Things like this do seem to happen more with invisible disabilities than physical disabilities. As I said in my Facebook post, at the pub I asked if he’d discriminate against a wheelchair user and he said “Of course not” and I said “Well what’s the difference?”.
Life can be very difficult. For instance, this morning, although Charlie is 19 and a half, I’ve had to shower her, wash her hair, make all her food and drink. I’ve had to rescue the microwave twice. Sometimes it’s exhausting and to have to also cope with unnecessary discrimination as well, it’s so completely unfair. Why shouldn’t a disabled person be able to live their life the way they want, just like any non-disabled person?
If this is a chance to stop this happening again, I’m going to do all I can
Quite a few people have said that this might set a precedent, which would be wonderful. Hopefully invisible disabilities will be recognised and accepted in the same way that visible ones would be. I hope people like Charlie and other disabled people, don’t have to go through this again. It would be wonderful to think they can just live their lives without anyone discriminating against them.
Making people aware is a hugely positive thing. I’m not somebody who would normally go out and ‘sell ourselves’ but if this is a chance to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again, I’m going to do all I can. Because that’s the only way change is going to happen.
The Mash Tun pub have investigated this incident and the staff member involved has been dismissed from their job. The Mash Tun are now working with the disability organisation Enable Me to improve the way they treat their disabled customers. Jenny has also released a new statement on Facebook about what happened.