For the first time, a court of first instance in Switzerland has
ruled that a spa located in the Canton of Apenzell had
discriminated against handicapped children by prohibiting them
access to the spa.
On January 4, 2012, teachers at the Heerbrugg Healing
Teacher's School along with five mentally and physically
handicapped children wanted to visit the spa. The group was refused
access to the spa on the grounds that their presence unduly
disturbed other bathing guests. In a follow-up letter to the
Heerbrugg Healing Teacher's School, the chairman of the spa
wrote that spa visitors often feel disturbed by visitors with
disabilities. Therefore, groups of disabled persons cannot be
granted free access at any time chosen, as the spa operates as a
business and cannot afford to lose disgruntled clients. The
chairman was, however, willing to discuss special opening times for
the handicapped groups.
"The Act expressly states that " private
persons offering public services may not discriminate against
disabled persons on the basis of their
The Ausserrhoder Kantonsgericht in Trogen decided now in first
instance that both the refusal of access and the letter constituted
a discrimination under the Swiss Invalidity Equality Act of 2002.
The Act expressly states that "private persons offering
public services may not discriminate against disabled persons on
the basis of their disability". After failed mediation
attempts, the disability organizations Procap, Pro Infirmis and
Insieme had jointly filed a court action which was supported by the
Heerbrugg Healing Teacher's School.
"A guiding court decision which takes the implementation of
the Swiss Invalidity Equality Act of 2002 one step
For the first time in Switzerland, a court action on
discrimination against people with disabilities has been approved.
Urs Dettling, Head of Social Policy at Pro Infirmis, speaks of a
particularly appalling case. Procap, Pro Infirmis and Insieme
called the court decision to be «a guiding principle
which takes the implementation of the Swiss Invalidity Equality Act
of 2002 one step further» and will hopefully spread
throughout Switzerland. The organizations are also confident that
the court decision will further raise the public's awareness
for the cause of handicapped people in Switzerland.
It is still unclear whether the Oberrhoder Obergericht, the
competent court of second instance, will be called upon. The spa
wants firstly review the court decisions' rationale and then
decide on a possible appeal, whilst the Municipality of Heiden,
sole shareholder of the spa, already distanced itself from the
discriminatory acts of the spa's management.
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