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Scots inventor aims to help Food and Drink industry better cater for those with disabilities

Scots inventor aims to help UK Food and Drink industry tap into £500 million lost annually by not catering for those with disabilities

Published: September 28, 2015
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The UK’s bars, coffee shops and eateries are losing staggering sums each year by not catering to the 3.4 million Brits with dexterity issues, according to a leading disabled inventor and equality campaigner.

Top restaurant chains are deterring disabled people from eating out by failing to provide cutlery or utensils especially adapted for people with tremors, arthritis, Parkinson’s or cerebral palsy.

Government research shows 19 per cent of people with a disability find going to a restaurant and pubs difficult (DWP Opinions and Lifestyle Survey) – while non-disabled people on average fork out £340 on dining every year (Mintel Eating Out Review 2015).

Inventor and equality campaigner Grant Douglas, 41, who was born with ataxic and athetoid cerebral palsy, believes British restaurants are losing millions of pounds each year by failing to help people with limited dexterity feel more comfortable eating in public.

Picture: Frame

Inventor and equality campaigner Grant Douglas. Picture: Frame

Grant said: “Anyone with limited dexterity will tell you the difficulty of eating things like rice, soup or cereal can put you off eating in public yet our restaurants continue to ignore this massive market.

“By my calculations the figure could be in the region of £500m a year which gives you an idea of the scale of the problem.

“Cutlery is – of course – designed for people with steady hands but there is a duty to provide alternatives for people who see this as a barrier to having a social life.

“The Equality Act of 2010 says organisations must make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. But legislation aside, it makes business sense to not limit your customer base.

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“For example, ten years ago it was unusual for restaurants to have wheelchair access or high chairs for kids. Now if you don’t provide these things you are losing clientele and, as a result, damaging your profits.

“It should be the norm for restaurants to have adapted cutlery for people with shaky or jumpy hands.”

A Department of Work and Pensions backed study has also shown nearly half (45 per cent) of restaurant staff have not been given disability awareness training.

And 86 per cent of the 57 leading UK restaurant chains provide no online information about the level of accessibility at their venues.

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After a “eureka moment” while eating cereal, Grant invented the S’up spoon in 2014 which was made by Glasgow design agency 4c – the company behind the Queen’s Commonwealth Baton.

The S'up spoon. Picture: Frame

The S'up spoon. Picture: Frame

The pipe-shaped spoon allows users to scoop up tricky-to-eat foods like cereal or soup and avoids spillage because of its hollow core.

The design is aimed to help people with cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s and other dexterity limitations to eat at home and in public with ease.

Grant holds a BSc in computer science from Edinburgh Napier University and has investigated disability rights in the US.

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He works part-time as the IT officer for Children in Scotland and spent 12 years as a disability equality trainer with Capability Scotland.

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