Recognising Intoxication and Disabilities

Responsible Service of AlcoholIn Western Australia, the law in regard to responsible service of alcohol states that – if a person is intoxicated, it is reasonable to believe that they are impaired due to alcohol. However, the issue is that some disabilities show the same physical signs as intoxication. Therefore, is it reasonable to consider someone to be intoxicated simply by observing the physical indicators?

There have been cases in the past where disabled persons have been told to leave the premises, and/or been refused to be served as they ‘appeared’ to be intoxicated. In regard to RSA, this is the correct thing to do and is compliant, but is it fair? Everyone has equal rights and, as a bar attendant or general manager, it is your responsibility not to serve intoxicated persons. But how do you know if they are intoxicated or mentally or physically handicapped?

In Western Australia, it is unlawful to refuse access to a public premises to a person based on their physical and/or mental impairment. As discussed, certain mental and physical disabilities may exhibit the same signs as an intoxicated person. There are certain disabilities in which their disability affects their motor skills, ability to walk and or slurs speech, all of which are also signs of intoxication. You can see how it would be easy to confuse signs of intoxication with the same signs of a person with disability.

Therefore, prior to refusing service on the basis that the person exhibits the same physical signs of intoxication, it is the responsibility of the bar attendant to ensure or rule out that the person has a medical condition or disability, and that is the reason as to why they are displaying the same signs when intoxicated.

It is important before refusing service to a patron to rule out they are not affected by a disability which exhibits the same signs as intoxication. Take the time and ensure that you are giving each patron the same right to enjoy their night and consume alcohol responsibility – don’t discriminate against persons who are disabled.