Shropshire

Birmingham Arena staff 'isolate' disabled teen and dog

Abby and Chloe Image copyright Abby Cappleman
Image caption Abby blogs about her experiences trying to access services with an assistance dog

Concert staff refused to let a disabled teenager and her assistance dog sit in seats she booked to see TV's Supervet in case people had allergies.

Abby Cappleman, 18, and her mother Julie, who is also disabled, had to sit in isolation at the back of Birmingham Arena to watch Noel Fitzpatrick's show.

Abby, who blogs about her difficulties accessing services, said: "We were treated like we had a disease."

A spokeswoman told the BBC the venue "apologised unreservedly".

In a video posted on her Facebook page Chloe the Assistance Dog, a security guard can be heard telling Abby she cannot sit in her booked seats for "health and safety reasons" because people might have "allergies".

"Even Noel had his dog on stage at the end of the show," said Abby.

The Shropshire teenager has Asperger's syndrome and is supported by Chloe the shih tzu, who helps her to lead an independent life outside of home.

She had booked tickets for Fitzpatrick's Welcome To My World tour several months ago and travelled 35 miles from her home in Telford to the event on Saturday.

Image caption Abby said it was "ironic" she and her dog were discriminated against while at Supervet Noel Fitzpatrick's show

"I'd checked what the advice was for assistance dogs on the Arena's website," said Abby. "If it had said I needed to book tickets for a specific area, then I would have done.

"But it said assistance dogs were welcome, with no mention of having to book special seats."

Abby and her mother got through security at the door but were apprehended by a member of staff who told them they could not sit in the seats they had booked.

When Abby protested, citing legislation from the Health and Safety Executive, she says they were shown to a disabled area but that the floor was "sticky and filthy".

They were then directed to a section at the back of the room, moving two women on first to make sure they were completely alone.

Image copyright Abby Cappleman
Image caption A photo Abby took showing where she and her mother were forced to sit

"There was nobody near us at all, except for a security guard, and at one point there was four of them by us," said Abby.

"It was really intimidating, we were trying to enjoy ourselves while four big burly security guards were hanging around us."

Abby said at the end of the show they left as quickly as they could.

"I don't think I've ever had anything that serious happen or been made to feel that way before," she said.

"The irony is that everyone there was a dog or a pet lover."

The Equality and Human Rights Commission states that service providers should accommodate all people with assistance dogs and that failing to do so could lead to a claim of disability discrimination.

A spokesperson for Arena Birmingham said assistance dogs were welcome, adding: "We do ask customers to advise us of their requirements at the time of booking.

"Assistance dogs are only allowed within certain seating areas within the arena bowl for the welfare of the dogs, other customers and to maintain safe venue evacuation routes, should they be required.

"We understand this wasn't properly explained on the venue's website, and we apologise unreservedly to Ms Cappleman.

"We have been in touch with her direct and are making adjustments to our information pages to ensure this doesn't happen again."

More on this story