NICHOLAS CARROLL

Equality Court proceedings launched on behalf of Hen­dri Herbst by the Stellenbosch University Law Clinic have ended in a settlement being reached with Dur­banville Hills winery.

The winery has admitted to discrimi­nating against the Paralympian in 2014 when its restaurant denied him access as he was accompanied by his guide dog.

Herbst, a Stellenbosch University (SU) student and visually impaired Paralympic swimmer,was prevented from entering the res­taurant and tasting facility of Durban­ville Hills along with his family due to the presence of Stan, his guide dog. This was as a result of the fa­cility’s policy prohibiting dogs.

In response to this, Herbst firstly laid a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission which, after investigating, stated it was “of the opinion that the [winery had] taken reasonable steps to address, resolve and remedy [his] complaint, and therefore accordingly [deemed his] complaint re­solved”.Unsatisfied with this re­sponse, Herbst approached the Law Clinic which instituted proceedings in the Equality Court on the basis that he had been unfairly discriminated against. According to Monja Posthumus- Meyjes, the attorney at the Law Clinic who conducted the case, Durbanville Hills firstly maintained that no such discrimination had taken place, and thus “the settlement [came] as quite a surprise”.

The settlement agreement was made an order of the Equal­ity Court on 26 September 2018,this agreement stipulat­ing that Durbanville Hills will issue an unconditional pub­lic apology to Herbst and ensure that all its staff engage in sensitivity training from the Guide Dog Association. Post­humus-Meyjes drew attention to this, say­ing the Law Clinic and Herbst“are very happy that [the win­ery] included that they… uncon­ditionally apologise and accept that there was discrimination against him”.

Further, the winery will compensate Herbst for the incident to the tune of R50 000, and donate another R50 000 to the Guide Dog Association for the purpose of raising aware­ness regarding the u s e of guide dogs by visually impaired persons.

Posthumus-Meyjes stated that al­though the winery “settled on all the terms that [Herbst] asked for… it would have been phe­nomenal if [the case] had been able to set precedent”. Non-the-less, she expressed that “compa­nies are hopefully going to… take note that there is a financial liability for discriminating against people”.

Looking beyond the Law Clinic’s re­cent success with Herbst’s case, Posthumus-Meyjes said that legislation for persons with disabilities “hasn’t quite evolved in the same sense that legislation for gender dis­crimination and race discrimination has evolved”.

South Africa has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons

with Disabilities, and Posthu­mus-Meyjes feels that it is very disappointing that “We still don’t have a piece of legislation that reflects day to day life of persons with disability to ensure protection for them” Considering this ongoing fight for the recognition of the rights of person with disabilities,

Posthumus-Meyjes emphatically stated that “if people with disabilities find that their rights are being discriminated against,

they are very welcome to contact [the Law Clinic] and come and have a consultation with us.

We are very proud of the work that we are doing on behalf of persons with disabilities, and this is one of the focus points at the Clin­ic – to drive disability rights and to make sure that the rights of persons with dis­abilities develop and are safe guarded.”

 

PHOTO: NEWS24