A YOUNG disabled man has complained of being ejected from Crown Casino twice in two days, after separate security guards mistook his cerebral palsy for drunkenness.
Disability advocates say similar incidents to that involving Swan Hill recycling plant worker Gary Erck, 24, are far too common around the country and warn that venues could face legal consequences.
Mr Erck’s sister, well known Victorian jockey Michelle Hagley, said Crown’s refusal to believe her brother’s slurred speech and shaky movement were a result of his disability, not excessive drinking, were deplorable.
«He’s obviously not drunk, he’s disabled,» she said.
Security guards first removed Mr Erck as he sat with a drink watching his uncle gamble at the casino in October. He says he was in no way drunk.
«He (the guard) told me to go and get something to eat and come back, so I went … and when I tried to get back in they said no, come back in three or four hours,» Mr Erck said.
«I tried to tell them I had a disability, and they didn’t listen.»
The pair returned to the casino the next afternoon and Mr Erck was again barred entry.
«I was dead sober the next day, and they still wouldn’t let me in,» he said.
Ms Hagley, 28, was still so upset last month that she posted a complaint on Crown’s Facebook page, but received no response.
«Gary would never complain, he’s not that sort of person, he just gets on with things,» she said.
Mr Erck said the «very upsetting» incident was unfortunately not uncommon.
«It’s happened a number of times. It doesn’t happen where I live, because they all know me. But it’s when I go to town or other places,» he said.
«It is upsetting. I normally have Michelle with me or other family so they can explain to them what’s wrong. But it doesn’t always work.»
Rebecca Feldman, of Victoria’s Youth Disability Advocacy Service, said being mistaken for a drunk was a common problem for people with disabilities that impair speech and movement, such as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.
«I think a lot of the time it’s not that people necessarily want to be malicious or discriminatory, but it’s a lack of awareness of the ways that cerebral palsy manifests,» she said.
«Staff need to be aware of different disabilities and be able to treat potential patrons with respect, because legally someone could rightly bring a complaint against them under the disability discrimination act and they’re likely to be successful.»
Crown spokesperson Cary O’Neill would not comment on the case, saying no formal complaint had been made, but in a written statement said the venue was vigilant in enforcing anti-discrimination policies.
«Crown security is particularly sensitive to the needs of the disabled and regularly meets with representatives of a number of disability organisations to ensure that our policies and procedures are as good as they can possibly be,» he said.
«If there has been a breakdown in the system, then we apologise unreservedly and it is always open for these people to raise the matter with us directly.»
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