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Wetherspoons staff accuses student with stoma bag of taking drugs

A student is calling for better awareness of invisible disabilities after staff at a Wetherspoons pub accused her of taking drugs while she was using the disabled toilet.

Amber Davies, aged 21, from Builth Wells was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 13. She has worn a stoma since then.

Because of the ulcerative colitis Amber had most of her bowel and rectum removed. Now she has no control over going to the toilet and the stoma bag needs to be emptied constantly. This makes going out - particularly at night - a very daunting prospect.

A stoma bag is worn over the stoma and looks like a bum bag. This is the way Amber collects the waste which she must then empty into the toilet. The stoma bag is an essential part of her daily life.

While she was at the Wetherspoons Pub Dragon Inn in Birmingham with her boyfriend and several other lads she was accosted by a bouncer after coming out of the disabled toilet.

Because of her condition Amber can visit the toilet up to 15 times a day. Even so, she was shocked when the bouncer accused her of taking or dealing drugs. The staff openly accused her of snorting, dealing and having sex in the disabled toilet.

Being with a group of lads also made her look suspicious, particularly when her boyfriend assisted her in one of the disabled toilets on the final visit.

As they came out, he was taken aside by a male bouncer and questioned separately. Amber was questioned by a female bouncer.

Accusations against Amber took place even though she has a radar key which allows access to disabled toilets. She also carries a ‘can’t wait card’ which explains her condition and requirements.

Although Amber tried to explain her condition to the male bouncer her explanation was met with confusion and ignorance and no form of sympathy from the man. He continued to intimidate and accuse her because of an ‘uneducated assumption.’

The staff at the Dragon Inn told Amber that there was no other reason she would need to visit the toilet so frequently, and they were convinced that she was involved in drugs.

When the bouncer did not show any signs of remorse after she had explained her condition, she was forced to leave the pub feeling upset and frustrated. She posted on her Instagram post that she felt shame, discrimination and awkwardness at the way the incident was handled.

Amber, who is a third-year student at Cardiff Metropolitan University also models for Aura Clothing which is an ethical fashion chain.

In an open letter to Dragon Inn Pub Amber pointed out that her disability is what is called a ‘hidden disability.’ Not every disability is visible or restricted to people who use wheelchairs. Her disability is not only chronic, it is debilitating and lifelong.

Amber stated that it gave her pleasure to stand up to people like the staff in the pub and educate them, as well as raise awareness so that other sufferers would not go through the shame and discrimination she went through.

After contacting the pub Amber received a gift card. A JD Wetherspoon spokesperson said that staff had apologised to Amber at the time of the incident. The spokesperson said that if the staff had known of her condition beforehand, or if she had given an explanation, the situation could have been avoided.

Wetherspoons spokesperson said that staff had listened to Amber and not questioned her disability. They had apologised for the confusion. The chain of Wetherspoons has also apologised to Amber.

Amber says that she will not let her experience at Wetherspoons knock her confidence. She wants to use the incident to raise awareness about her condition.

Amber describes her condition as a daily struggle in which she battles extreme abdominal cramps, fatigue and diarrhoea. It is debilitating and life destroying. In instances such as the one in Wetherspoons, people should be willing to learn and to assist in a moment of need.

Working with Aura Clothing Amber models swimwear for an ostomate-focused designer brand. She fundraises for Crohns and Colitis UK as well as leading informative talks. Her blogs and podcasts are another way she raises awareness about her condition.

Amber commented that considering that Wetherspoons is such a large chain, her treatment was completely unacceptable. You would think that a chain which is so prominent would have better in-house training and knowledge about ‘invisible disabilities.’

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