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In an unusual case, the Energy Ombudsman has now settled a compensation claim brought by a
disabled complainant for victimisation and failure to make reasonable adjustments.

50-year-old Lesley has severe dyslexia and Meares Irlen Syndrome or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome.
These impairments cause extreme visual and auditory distress when communicating or reading; that
when the Claimant reads conventional black on white text and some other colours, words appear
illegible  scrambled and to move around the page in several different sequences, reordering the
words and sentences the letters and words can be highlighted and shift to other words, the letters
and words are frequently read back to front and words and letters have the appearance of being
highlighted and to jump out of the page. When viewing other font types and colours severe visual
distress also happens, this can be worsened by severity of MS symptoms or auditory sensitivity and
pain on any given day. 

This means that they require html (websites) to have an accessibility toolbar that allow for them to
change the font colours.

Having been dissatisfied with the response to their complaint to their energy provider, they
proceeded to escalate the complaint to the Energy Ombudsman in April 2023, who then ironically
given the nature of the complaint then did the same.
Lesley reminded the Ombudsman of their reasonable adjustments on at least four occasions before
pointing out that their failures to provide information in an accessible format amounted to the same
breaches of the Equality Act that they had complained about and the breaches amounted to

This prompted an angry response from the file handler’s team leader, referring to the criticism as
“rude”, “bold” and stating that it had been ‘noted down on your account’. The complaint itself was
then subject to delays. 

When a decision was provided, it was posted onto an inaccessible portal, with no accessibility
toolbar provided and on asking for the complaints policy and equality policy, the same team leader
refused to provide them.  A final response was provided in August 2023 and then Lesley was
inaccurately told that the complaint had been re-opened. 

Lesley instructed Inspire Legal at the end of September and we pursued a claim for a breach of s29
of the Equality Act 2010, and pointing out that section 20(6) makes it clear that the duty to make
reasonable adjustments includes “a duty to provide information in an accessible format where
appropriate”. By failing to provide Lesley with information in an accessible format the Ombudsman
failed to make a reasonable adjustment. 

We alleged that the responses of the team leader to Lesley’s genuine and temperate complaint
amounted to protected acts in accordance with s27 of the Equality Act relating to victimisation. 

Chris Fry, instructed by Lesley praised the Ombudsman’s Solicitors for responding quickly and
positively to the claim and completing a settlement without the need for County Court litigation. 
“A settlement at £13.5K made within 2 months of our involvement (although without any admission
of fault) indicates that the Ombudsman has taken this complaint seriously, and hopefully suggests
that others will benefit from the outcome. Meanwhile the original case against Lesley’s energy
supplier is still going!” 
Commenting on the case, and the outcome Lesley had this to say: 
“It is important that staff are trained in matters related to the EQA 2010 and know how to respond to
a disabled persons reasonable adjustment request quickly, to prevent further disadvantage.
Companies should consider accessibility toolbars so that persons with cognitive disabilities and other
disabilities have access to their services independently and to the complaint process.  This experience
should never have happened; however, I appreciate the Ombudsman solicitors handled this matter
quickly “ 

Inaccessible communications continue to be a main theme in service delivery for disabled
consumers. For a free guide about to complain effectively click here.

Chris Fry – Disability Rights

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