A disabled 89-year-old widow has been banned from attending a village luncheon club because apparently her mobility scooter presents a health and safety hazard.
Jean Sleath suffers from chronic arthritis and heart problems which means she needs a mobility scooter to lead an active life. She has attended a weekly luncheon club at the village hall in Heckington, near Sleaford, Lincs., for several months but recently she was told she can only attend the club in the village hall if she is either in a wheelchair or uses a walking frame or walking stick.
The village hall, run by a charitable trust, says Mrs Sleath’s scooter poses a health risk because it could block the exits in the event of a fire. Retired university lecturer Mrs Sleath said: “The luncheon club is very helpful and the only time I go out because it is just up the road and I know it will be warm inside the building. I used to be able to park my mobility scooter and walk into the building and someone would help me. Now I stay sat in the scooter as getting up and down is a problem for me. I have now been told that my scooter is not welcome because it could cause problems with evacuating the hall in the event of a fire by blocking the exit ramp.”
Jean continued: “This is difficult to understand as there are three or four exits from the hall, one of which leads to the ramp which is used by scooters and could not by any stretch of the imagination be used by pedestrians, especially semi-disabled ones and stick users who comprise most of the luncheon club. I attend the church in the village every Sunday and they have no problem with my scooter and they have fewer exits. I really don’t know why the village hall is any different. I feel like I am being discriminated against because of my mobility scooter.”
Village hall caretaker Stephen Linford, who deals with the granting of licences for fire and health and safety, defended the ban stating: “We do not allow scooters in the building because physically it is very difficult to get them in. It is very difficult for scooters to make the turn at the entrance. It is not a big village hall and from a fire risk point of view the escape door for the ramp is right opposite the kitchen, which is probably the main possibility of fire. A mobility scooter trying to turn could block the ramp and there were no other suitable exits for scooters as it is an old building.”