Apparently Alex Barker is heading back to Falmouth via a 300 mile pub crawl on soft drinks to raise awareness about challenges faced by people with visible disabilities when they go to get served in pubs and bars.

Changing Faces, who are running an awareness campaign, were coming onto my radio show to talk about it. Unfortunately the interview didn’t happen.

Here is what their PR manager said this is about:

The campaign we’ll be launching on Tuesday is focusing on the issue of people being assumed drunk when in fact they have a medical condition. We’re going to be focusing on licensees and security staff, and the campaign absolutely won’t be targeting the Cutty Sark in any way. It will be a positive campaign focusing on how the hospitality industry can make people with conditions and disabilities feel welcome in their venues.

Therefore, why is he coming to Falmouth on a Saturday night if it is not about any particular venue or incident?

This is the schedule for the pub crawl campaign: 1. Coventry (Fri eve) 2. Worcester (Fri eve) 3. Bristol (Fri eve) 4. Taunton (Sat morn) 5. Exeter (Sat lunch) 6. Bodmin (Sat aft) 7. Truro (Sat aft) 8. Perranarworthal (Sat eve) 9. Falmouth (Sat eve).

Karen Johnson, Deputy Chief Executive of Facial Palsy UK, says:

“People living with facial palsy live with prejudice and discrimination every day of their lives, and day in day out we hear stories similar to Alex’s.”

Alex seems to say he has only lived with prejudice and discrimination over buying a beer since 11 July.

Alex says this is the first time he has experienced this. Lucky him. I experienced being turned away a few times before I had hearing aids and once due to Dyspraxia and clumsiness.Even showing my Dyspraxia report did not change anything.

The Worcester News quote Alex saying: “I didn’t even get as far as the bar before they turned me away, and I tried to explain about my condition but they weren’t interested. I was really embarrassed and felt belittled and shocked. I’ve been able to drink for about 25 years and this has never happened to me before.”

If a decision was made not to serve based on the entry and his breath, it was not discrimination. If anyone else had walked in like that, the same would have happened. If he had never been denied a drink based on his disability for 25 years, what did he base his suspicions of discrimination on?

If the decision had been reversed due to his disability, that would be positive discrimination and not being treated like everyone else.

If the object of this campaign is to create awareness amongst the public and licensees, then why is all the focus still on this incident. Alex didn’t go away to calm down and think how best to proceed. He went on for a drink and went back the next day to accuse the pub of discrimination based on him seeming more drunk than he claimed he was due to his condition.

This creates more confusion about the disabled community and does not raise awareness as all we have is two points of view. If someone does face discrimination, they need to think how to increase understanding. This is a high profile media case that is causing a lot of animosity, distraction from bigger issues (fair employment, government actions against disabled people, bedroom tax, hate crime, etc) and putting people in the wrong, allowing them to be targeted and their reputations to be publicly soiled without evidence, instead of everyone taking personal responsibility for their own lives and creating more understanding around them when they go out and about.

If people are going to discuss this, there needs to be a massive tone down in the personal, attacking, aggressive, statements without correct facts, bias and making people out to be bad and wrong where they have acted as pretty much anyone in the situation would have done.

We need to be asking:

1. Is the general public too over-protective towards people with disabilities?

2. Is a minority of the disabled community too militant and therefore not doing the wider community a service?

3. What is the best way for someone to deal with prejudice or discrimination if they feel it has been used against them?

4. How can employers and recruiters ensure they are not discriminating unfairly against people with disabilities, particularly when the government are pushing people to get work that doesn’t exist or isn’t available to them?

Surely Alex claiming to be a pure victim on 11 July could make things worse, as now publicans will be unsure and wary of how they treat people with disabilities and be more over-protective of them, instead of allowing them to be responsible for themselves? My hope is someone wouldn’t use their disability to get served even when they are under the influence, which puts the pub in danger.

5. How to identify and report hate crime.

to create peace, start change and to get a positive outcome from a negative experience, you have to see both points of view. Alex has ignored the other point of view and altered his account to keep putting the other side in the wrong. It will just put a lot of people’s backs up if what is expected of them is not made clear. To increase awareness, knowledge about conditions or disabilities amongst the non-disabled community and to allow the general public to understand people with different disabilities better, go to the Liberty Festival on Sunday 26 July 2015 in London, not a pub in Cornwall.

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