Travel agency condemned for discriminating against a deaf client in Belgium

11 Oct 2010


The Ghent Commercial Court sentenced a travel agency that offers adventurous holidays for discriminating against a deaf customer.

A deaf man who is used to travelling independently, contacted the agency in May last year to register for a group holiday to Jordan. Because the travel agency thought they could not guarantee the deaf man’s safety if he would have to communicate with the locals, they only wanted to register him if he would bring a companion at his own expense.

A few simple adjustments such as using a notebook and SMS to communicate arrangements would have been sufficient for the man to join the group to Jordan. Requiring an individual supervisor at the expense of the deaf man himself was completely unnecessary.

After unsuccessful mediation efforts by the Federation of Flemish Deaf Organisations (Fevlado), the Centre for Equal Opportunities (hereafter called the Centre) and the Ghent Complaints Bureau for Discrimination, it was decided to take it to court. The court followed them and judged that the travel agency was guilty of discrimination by refusing to enroll the deaf man.

Fevlado welcomes this verdict. This is an important ruling which confirms that deaf people are not helpless or incompetent. Deaf people are full citizens who have the right to participate in all spheres of social life: education, sports, culture, leisure, travel, ...

The Anti-Discrimination Act makes it clear that those who supply goods and services, cannot refuse customers with disabilities and must provide reasonable accommodation where necessary. That is the message of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The agency was ordered to pay a compensation of 650 Euros and a fine of 1000 Euros each time it happens again. Additionally, the travel agency has to hang out this sentence in its offices in Ghent and at its own expense publish it in various media. The sentence also has to be published in its newsletter and website.


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