Cooper and Others vs Holiday Coast Cinema Centres, 1997

A person, on behalf of himself and fellow members of an organisation who are confined to wheelchairs, lodged a complaint under the DDA with the then HREOC now the AHRC about a cinema complex in Coffs Harbour.

The complaint was that it was impossible for a person in a wheelchair to independently enter the cinemas; that even though assistance was available it was unacceptable and that therefore the patrons who use a wheelchair were indirectly discriminated against. Evidence was given about the apprehension experienced by a wheelchair user in being carried up stairs lest serious injury be caused to the person being carried and to those doing the carrying.

The cinema complex was an existing one that contained two cinemas. It was refurbished and another cinema added. The resulting complex has five levels with four flights of stairs.

It was concluded by the Commission that lifts and ramps were not possible or practical within the cinema complex and that platform stairlifts were the only feasible means of providing for independent wheelchair access to all levels.

In arguing against the installation of stairlifts, the Cinema asserted that the installation would be financially crippling and cause the cinema to be closed, having repercussions for cinema staff, the cinema-going public, and the local community generally. The Commission acknowledged this but concluded on evidence that the installation could be accommodated within the typical seven year refurbishment cycle of the cinema and that the cost could be amortizable over this time.

The Commission found that indirect discrimination had occurred because there was effectively a requirement or condition that persons wishing to gain access to the cinema complex be able to climb stairs. This was a requirement or condition with which the complainants and other persons with similar disabilities could not comply, and which was not a reasonable condition or requirement.

The Cinema was directed to install within or by the end of five years efficient and effective platform stairlifts to provide access to all levels of the cinema.