An instructor called him stupid. Then he won the case.

When Ketan Aggarwal went to a spin class in London in May 2015, he wasn’t looking for a fight. But when the instructor singled him out and made fun of him, he decided to take matters into his own hands and successfully sued the gym without the help of a lawyer.


Aggarwal is autistic, which means he often struggles with social interaction. He shares this condition with around 1% of the entire planet. Other symptoms include an obsession with repetition and an inability to read facial cues, although manifestations of autism vary widely from person to person.

The spin class instructor was allegedly aware of Aggarwal’s disability, yet berated him and called him “stupid” in front of 30 people. Aggarwal says he bore the brunt of the instructor’s anger, despite the fact that he had only agreed with a classmate’s complaint about the class’ music.

After the gym brushed off his initial complaint, Aggarwal dove into previous cases and taught himself everything he needed to know about discrimination law. The legal battle raged for two years, and Aggarwal says he had to “live in the library” to accumulate the knowledge he needed to win.

Aggarwal’s hard work and dedication paid off. The court declared that the gym?—?Virgin Active?—?was in the wrong, and ordered the institution to pay Aggarwal £1,200 on top of an apology for the incident. Although Aggarwal is certainly owed a payout for all the time he spent fighting for his cause, he’s adamant that this was about standing up for himself and others like him.

Virgin Active no longer employs the spin class instructor and the organization has since apologized.

While vindicating, this case is a single success in a world that still heavily discriminates against people living with disabilities like autism. Devoid of context, calling someone stupid may not seem that bad—but flinging such insults at someone like Aggarwal is bullying, plain and simple.

Aggarwal’s courageous actions show that people like him don’t need to stand for ridicule and derision. They can stand up and fight.