The pub chain has announced it will put signs in all bathrooms and train staff to help them better understand invisible conditions.
The company are the first major pub chain to sign up to charity, Crohn’s and Colitis UK’s ‘Not Every Disability is Visible’ campaign, which aims to stop the stigma and discrimination towards people with hidden health conditions.
The move comes after a woman shared her experience of being asked by a bouncer if she had been dealing drugs after coming out of a disabled toilet.
Amber Davies uses an ostomy bag because she was diagnosed with bowel condition ulcerative colitis aged 13.
On a night out at JD Wetherspoon’s The Dragon Inn in Birmingham earlier this year, the 21-year-old student claims staff accused her of taking drugs in the bathroom because they didn’t understand why she was going so often, as she doesn’t look sick.
Following the incident, Amber shared an open letter to the pub chain on Instagram, which quickly went viral.
And now, it seems the pub has taken note of her words and teaming up with the charity to support the campaign.
Amber shared the news by sharing an image of the pub chain’s plans to implement the scheme to Instagram, describing the move as a “little victory.”
“A little victory but nevertheless, significant and 100% a step in the right direction,” she wrote.
“So this was on Wetherspoons managers action plan this week following speaking up about my experience in one of their chains a couple of months ago.
Amber said that though she got some backlash for speaking out about her experience she was overwhelmed by the number of people who had also experienced something similar, which she describes as “unacceptable and sad”.
She went on to say that it is unfair that people with invisible illnesses are put of going out and about for fear of something similar happening to them.
“Lesson; don’t back down, stand up for what you’re entitled to and make noise about things that are unfair,” she continued.
“One day, society WILL be inclusive, welcoming and accepting of everybody.
“Wetherspoons, your shitty response and lack of apology did not suffice but thanks for taking some notice and action in bettering this behaviour,” she added.
Crohn’s & Colitis UK originally launched their campaign in April, sending over 48,000 emails to the 15 largest pub and restaurant chains across the country but JD Wetherspoon is the first chain to come on board.
The campaign came following a survey, which found that around half of people with conditions said they have felt prevented from going to restaurants and pubs because they fear discrimination.
Almost two thirds (61%) of negative incidents experienced by people with Crohn’s or Colitis for using the accessible toilets, have manifested as verbal and/or physical abuse.
The survey found that people with invisible disabilities are targets of discrimination by the well-meaning UK public because they are using accessible toilets when they “don’t look disabled”.
The charity said over 80% of people with Crohn’s or Colitis said they feel more comfortable visiting places with the ‘Not Every Disability is Visible’ signs installed, illustrating that the introduction of the signs can have a real impact on people’s lives.
Commenting on JD Wetherspoon joining the campaign Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive at Crohn’s & Colitis UK told Metro: “JD Wetherspoon has made a simple but significant change in minimising the impact Crohn’s and Colitis can have on people’s lives – we know that these signs make a real difference to people living with these devastating conditions.
“We are grateful to the company for joining our campaign and showing their commitment to tackling stigma and discrimination for all their customers.”
Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We want to make sure all of our customers feel comfortable when visiting any of our pubs. We’re delighted to install these new signs that help to both increase awareness that not all disabilities are visible, and to ensure that anyone who needs to, can feel confident using our accessible toilets.”