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RTO No: 52312

Raising disability awareness in venues

8 August 2021

Attributed to QLD Liquor and Gaming. 


Everyone has a responsibility to create a safe and inclusive community.

As licensees and regulators, the focus has always been on ensuring alcohol is served in a safe and responsible manner. This is critical to how the industry operates and safety is always paramount.

But have you also taken the time to consider if your actions may discriminate against people with a disability, by presuming they are intoxicated?

One person who has experienced this is disability advocate William Kroger. Mr Kroger, who was born with a hearing and speech impairment, said it’s a common issue for people with a disability to be refused service because they are thought to be intoxicated.

“Many years ago, I got discriminated against due to my speech impairment and mobility challenges and was refused entry,” Mr Kroger said.

“I decided to educate myself about the laws and the nightlife environment and started having meaningful conversations to make small progressive changes.

“After speaking and networking around the Fortitude Valley publican community, I noticed that more and more staff were mentioning their family with disabilities and questioning themselves about liquor laws.”

The visible signs of some disabilities can be perceived as the visible signs of intoxication and this is a challenging issue for venues.  But more so, it's challenging for members of the community with a disability.

While the responsible service of alcohol guidelines state that a venue must serve alcohol in a responsible manner, venues must also comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, which makes it illegal to refuse to serve a person with disability on the grounds of their disability.

Difficulties with speech, balance and coordination may cause a venue to suspect excess alcohol consumption but as Mr Kroger points out this may also be the challenges of some people with a disability.

Mr Kroger said the best thing for licensees to do is start a conversation with the patron.

“Take the time to have a chat with the customer with a disability – it is okay to check on them within the venue and see if they are okay” he said.

Mr Kroger believes collaboration and education is also key to seeing change in the community.

“We all need to work together to reduce these complications – from government bodies to staff and customers,” he said.

“We need to provide more resources and training opportunities that support the disability community to enjoy the nightlife economy.”

Mr Kroger is encouraging licensees to talk to patrons in their community and organisations who can help build staff knowledge and experience on the issue.

“Have a chat with the customer with disability and provide simple resources to help communicate, such as notepad, touch pad and electronic ordering devices” he said.

OLGR recently spoke to several licensees to seek their thoughts and any best practice tips.

Most agreed that assessing whether a person has a disability can be difficult and therefore best done on a case by case basis.

If staff are unsure, then they should seek assistance from a manager who can talk to the patron. In some instances, the person may produce identification which supports their medical condition. Once confirmation of the person’s disability is known then other staff can be advised, so everyone is aware – this is particularly important for patrons that become regulars.

The Australian Government has online resources to increase disability awareness. Fact sheets are also available on the Queensland Government website to assist with:

  • creating inclusive and accessible events
  • accessible and inclusive communication
  • employing people with a disability
  • increasing disability awareness.

Everyone deserves to be able to enjoy a night out or time spent with family and friends without discrimination.