Wheelchair user Esther Leighton has submitted a string of legal claims after claiming the law is being “ignored” By RAYMOND BROWN,
2 MAR 2017
A disabled woman has filed a string of lawsuits against shops and restaurants in the same street over a row about access.
Wheelchair user Esther Leighton has taken action against seven businesses after she complained to 28 traders in Mill Road, Cambridge, two miles from where she lives.
Ms Leighton said she launched legal claims because the Equality Act was being “ignored”, the Cambridge News reported.
She claimed she has contacted traders about not being able to enter their shops since 2010 but has not received responses from some businesses.
The seven she alleged have yet to make contact have now been hit with legal action.
Court papers reportedly show a kebab shop is being sued for £10,000 while a hair salon, dry cleaners and chicken restaurant all face claims for £1,500 each.
The legal blitz has sparked panic among traders in street with fears payouts could lead to shops shutting up for good.
One trader, who did not wish to be named, said the lawsuits have caused fears some businesses will not be able to afford damages.
Ms Leighton, who has lived in Cambridge since 1998, said: Like many wheelchair users, I have spent years being denied access to shops, restaurants and cafes.
“Ive been raising these concerns with businesses on Mill Road for years.
The most important thing to me is an apology, not getting money. The point is to be able to access the shops.
“Thanks to the changes made by those businesses that responded positively, Im delighted to say that Im now able to get in to the majority of the shops on the town side of the bridge, on Mill Road.
I am open to mediation and negotiation, but I have now begun legal action against those shop owners who have ignored multiple letters.
“Its baffling that they would apparently rather be sued than buy a ramp, which would be much cheaper for them.
Ive been encouraged and comforted by the support Ive received from other disabled people who are fed up that the Equality Act is being ignored. Its rightly illegal to ban other groups from shops. They shouldnt be able to say no power chair users either.
Traders have called on former Cambridge mayor Gerri Bird, who is also disabled, to test out access to several shops in response to the fears.
Cllr Bird said: “The shopkeepers asked me to meet up with them to see what the access was like for me as a wheelchair user. We went along Mill Road to try out access to three shops. I had no problems as you can see from the photos
If I couldnt get into any of the shops they were happy to help me, and they had signs in the shop windows, also some had bells so I could get their attention.
“They have done reasonable adjustments. So I would like to say that Mill Road shopkeepers are very helpful and understanding of the needs of disabled people.
In a statement Mill Road Traders Association said: “Mill Road Traders’ Association are aware of Ms Leightons actions against some of the shop keepers, however she has not been in touch with us directly.
“Mill Road is in a conservation area of Cambridge and is one of the few streets that is still full of independent stores. It is in a multicultural diverse area known for our open and friendly customer service.
“Mill Road hosts many events during the year including The Mill Road Winter Fair which last year saw 26,000 visitors of all abilities come and enjoy our unique groups of shops.
These shops are run by dedicated customer orientated shop owners, who are already under pressure during this difficult economic time.
Mill Road shopkeepers have many wheelchair users using our services on a daily basis, and we are constantly improving our services through our customer feedback.
Mill Road Traders Association is working with our members in regards to Ms Leightons actions.