Japan wheelchair user sues over ban from wine-tasting event

The wheelchair user told the Tokyo district court that he was asked to stop drinking after two glasses of wine.
The wheelchair user told the Tokyo district court that he was asked to stop drinking after two glasses of wine.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - A wheelchair user who was stopped from drinking alcohol at a wine-tasting event over "safety" concerns is seeking compensation in a Japanese court.

The man in his 50s is demanding 1.7 million yen (S$20,650) in damages from both organisers and Seibu Department Store in Tokyo, where the event was held in August, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported on Thursday (Nov 22).

During the trial's first day on Wednesday, the manual wheelchair user, whose name was withheld, told the Tokyo district court that he was asked to stop drinking after two glasses of wine, the daily said.

Staff gave him a written statement, which said: "To customers coming to the store with manual and electric wheelchairs, please refrain from tasting." He told organisers that he was not heavily drunk and the instruction was unreasonable, but he was ousted from the venue.

His complaint noted that the act was "unjust discrimination" against him and violated the nation's disability discrimination law, the newspaper said.

"Accidents and troubles inside the store are not always caused by wheelchair users," his lawyer told the court, saying the defendant treated wheelchair users as "a nuisance". But a lawyer for the department store, run by Sogo & Seibu Co, told the court that the instruction was "necessary to secure safety", the daily said.

The legal team added that there were minor accidents between an electric wheelchair user and customers when the store held a similar wine-tasting event two years ago.

In Japan, both manual and electric wheelchairs are mostly categorised as "pedestrians" under law, while police strictly instruct electric wheelchair users not to roll them after drinking.