‘Felt like I was back in school’ Disabled woman slams staff who refused to serve her

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Joanne Deiger, who has cerebral palsy, contends with weak muscles, difficulty walking and issues around swallowing. Joanne, 51, attended school in the 1970s, and was bullied for her condition, which was less well understood back then. When she was refused at the bar, Joanne’s painful memories of those school days came flooding back.

She told the Liverpool Echo: “The staff made a complete show of me – it felt like I was back in school being bullied.”

Joanne claims she was not allowed to order a glass of wine and lemonade at a pub in October 2018.

The alleged incident took place in her local area, and she was accused of being too drunk to place another alcohol order.

Joanne, from Walton in Liverpool, had only had two drinks on that autumn evening and requests to speak to the manager were rebuffed.

Joanne said: “I have slurred speech due to my cerebral palsy – it gets worse when I’m nervous or tired.

“Otherwise, I don’t use a wheelchair or walk with a stick so I look able-bodied – my disability is invisible.

“When I went up to order a drink the staff said ‘no, no, we’ve been warned about you’. They thought I was drunk due to my slurring.

“I had only had two wines and lemonades.

“The staff made a complete show of me – it felt like I was back in school being bullied.

“The next day, I was crying my eyes out. I had sleepless nights about it. I still felt the fear of it happening to me again.

“It made me feel ashamed of my disability, something I can’t change.

“I just don’t want anyone else to go through what I’ve gone through.”

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A year and a half later, Joanne received an apology and a £20 gift voucher, but her experience has led her to campaign for awareness of cerebral palsy and other disabilities in settings like pubs.

Joanne now raises awareness of The Brain Charity, an organisation hoping to raise £60,000 for mental support for people with neurological conditions.

She commented: “At the time I was in quite a bad place and felt like I couldn’t stand up for myself and I hate to think that other people might be in a similar situation.

“Even if this happened to one other person, that is too many. I want everyone to be more aware of these invisible conditions so people with them can be treated with more dignity.

“It’s been a struggle to accept my cerebral palsy even though I’ve had this diagnosis pretty much my whole life, but The Brain Charity has helped me come to terms with it.

“I’ve been able to shift my focus from what I’m not able to do and open my eyes to the skills I can offer.”

Nanette Mellor, CEO of The Brain Charity, said: “‘Joanne’s story is really unfortunate and all too common.

“It demonstrates how important it is for us all to take a step back and really think about the person who is front of us before making any judgements.

“Lots of disabilities are invisible, and it is incredibly important for us all to be as openminded and compassionate as we can towards those we meet whom might not act or look the same way that we do.”

Additional reporting by Liam Thorp.

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