Disabled children win discrimination case against spa in a first for Switzerland

A court in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden has ruled that a spa broke the law in refusing access to five disabled children, the first successful court case of its kind in Switzerland.

Disabled children win discrimination case against spa in a first for Switzerland
File photo: cokacoka/Depositphotos
The case dates back to 2012, when five mentally and physically disabled children aged 6 to 14 from a specialist school in Heerbrugg were refused entry to the Heilbad Unterrechstein thermal baths near Grub, reported news agencies on Tuesday.
The reason given by the spa was that their presence would bother other customers. Groups of disabled people were only allowed in the spa when it wasn’t busy.
Four associations for the disabled then launched a suit against the Heilbad Unterrechstein on behalf of the five children. 
Five years later, the cantonal court of Appenzell Ausserrhoden gave its verdict, judging that the spa had discriminated against the children because of their disability and therefore broke Swiss equality laws. 
It’s the first time that a complaint of discrimination on the basis of disability has been upheld in a Swiss court since the law was established in 2004.
In a statement on Tuesday the four associations including Pro Infirmis called it a “pioneering” judgement and said they hoped it would send a “signal” to the whole of Switzerland and “set a precedent” for such cases.
“This case shows that disabled people are still exposed to discrimination,” said the organizations. 
But most people concerned do not take such cases to court for financial reasons, they added. 
In this case the Heilbad Unterrechstein would have faced no consequences over its discriminatory action if the four associations hadn’t stepped up to help.
The organizations hope the judgement will “mark a turning point and help raise awareness” of the issue, they said.

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