The decision on the inadmissibility in the case concerning the access to the cinema by a person with disabilities

In its decision in the case of Glaisen v. Switzerland (application no. 40477/13, 18/07/2019) the European Court of Human Rights has by a majority declared the application inadmissible. 

The applicant, who is paraplegic, uses a wheelchair. His complaint concerned his inability to gain access to a cinema in Geneva to see a film which was not being shown in any other cinema in the city. As the building housing the cinema was not adapted to wheelchair users, the applicant was refused access.

Relying in particular on Articles 14 (prohibition of discrimination) and 8 (right to respect for private and family life), the applicant complained that the refusal of access to the cinema on account of his disability had not been characterised as discrimination by the Swiss courts.

Pointing out that it was necessary to take account of the specificities of the case at hand, particularly the applicant’s social and family situation, the Court did not overlook the fact that for Mr Glaisen, who was paraplegic, the importance of going to the cinema was not just to see a film, that he might be able to watch at home instead, but also involved exchanges with others. Moreover, Mr Glaisen, who could not take part in many other leisure activities on account of his disability, saw himself as an avid cinema-goer, and this was not questioned by the Government. 

However, the Court took the view that Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) could not be construed as requiring access to a specific cinema to see a given film in a situation where access to other cinemas in the vicinity was possible. The Court indeed noted that in the surrounding area there were other cinemas adapted to Mr Glaisen’s needs, and that he therefore generally had access to his local cinema. 

The Court reiterated that States were afforded a broad margin of appreciation in situations where they had to strike a balance between competing private and public interests or between different Convention rights. Similarly, domestic courts had to give detailed reasons for their decisions, in particular to allow the Court to exercise its European scrutiny.

In the present case, the Court was of the view that the Federal Court had given sufficient reasons to explain why the situation faced by Mr Glaisen was not serious enough to fall within the notion of discrimination. The Court thus saw no cause to go against the findings of the Federal Court, which had held that the Convention did not oblige Switzerland to adopt, in its domestic legislation, a concept of discrimination of the kind sought by Mr Glaisen. It followed that he was not entitled to rely on Article 8 of the Convention.

References from the official website of the European Court of Human Rights