UK gurdwara sued for discriminating against disabled

One of Britain’s largest gurdwaras has been sued by worshippers for alleged discrimination against the elderly and disabled people.
Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara at Blakenhall in the city of Wolverhampton has been accused of leaving people in wheelchairs outside the main prayer room and making them sit behind screens in the dining room because they are unable to observe the custom of sitting on the floor.Papers have been filed with the County Court in Birmingham and letters have been sent by British Sikh parliamentarian Paul Uppal and Pat McFadden, both seeking re-election as MPs in Wolverhampton, reminding the gurdwara of its obligations under disability discrimination laws.

GurdwaraAround 10,000 people regularly use the gurdwara on Sedgley Street, according to the local Express and Star newspaper.

Campaigners say people in wheelchairs cannot get up to the prayer room, the Dahar Sahib, because a lift is not always available. Those with mobility problems say they have to sit on benches outside the main room.

The gurdwara committee says none is being excluded and that plans are in place for a new building that will improve access to the prayer room.

Rajinder Bassi, chairman of the Sikh Forum Wolverhampton, said around 5,000 pounds has been raised through donations to fund the legal challenge.

He said, “What is happening to disabled and older people is degrading. They are missing out on the spiritual aspect and want to be able to join others upstairs. There’s nothing in our faith that says the temple should do this.”

A spokesperson for the gurdwara, in a statement, said, “The services are provided in line with Sikh traditions where all are welcome to visit and pray at the gurdwara. We make as far as possibly practical reasonable adjustments that are also consistent with our practices to accommodate people with disabilities taking account of our faith’s traditions.

“The gurdwara is governed by direction from Akaal Takhat Sahib jee — the Sikh supreme authority and this is written within the gurdwara constitution registered with the Charities Commission since its establishment in 1969.”

The spokesperson said, “In line with the Sikh principles of worship and serving the community through its open door policy for all regardless of gender, age, race, wealth or faith including those of no faith, the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee have over the years provided a series of ‘reasonable adjustments’ which cater for those who are unable to be seated in the two main areas of the gurdwara.”

These areas are the Darbar Sahib where the religious programmes are held and the langar hall where the congregation are served blessed food and also socialize with family and friends.

“These provisions will be modernized once the approved new building costing nearly two million pounds is constructed this year,” the

spokesperson added.
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