The DWP are once again under fire as a petition has been started to make Colchester’s disability assessment centre disabled accessible.
The centre currently has a step five inches from the pavement, making it virtually inaccessible to wheelchair users. Wheelchair users must therefore press the intercom and wait for help, which users say is “painful and humiliating.”
Under the Equalities Act 2010, if a building cannot be made accessible, reasonable adjustments must be made. Having members of staff at the DWP building “manhandle” people into the building, or demand that they travel an additional 20 miles to an alternative centre. That the centre will not provide a reasonable alternative – even something as simple as a ramp – and instead believe that staff who are not trained to properly lift and handle a disabled person is absurd.
Speaking with The Daily Gazette, Ali Wilkin, who has an autoimmune condition which causes her to experience fatigue and chronic pain that is exacerbated by being lifted, said:
“Long-term this isn’t just about Colchester, it’s about disabled people’s difficulties in accessing the benefits system.
“I’m part of a community who have been under attack by government policy for a long time.”
Wilkin has not received benefits in a month after being denied a work capability assessment. After six months, she was offered an alternative assessment which she was unable to make, and was told that she could access the Colchester centre through the nearby Job Centre Plus building. Within 24 hours, this offer was rescinded and she was deemed “fit to work.”
I've been found fit for work in my absence – for 'failing' to prove I'm too ill to travel, and **for "failing" to prove the Colchester assessment centre is not acceptable**. pic.twitter.com/F264A2SC6E
— ali wilkin (@aliwilkin) April 12, 2018
This is not the first time the DWP have been in the spotlight for inaccessible assessment centres: in 2016 Disabled Go News reported that their Croydon assessment centre was inaccessible as wheelchair users were banned from using the centre’s lifts, and the Glasgow assessment centre has repeatedly faced criticism, with one harrowing report of a woman having to physically drag herself up the centre’s stairs. Other centres in Birmingham, Luton and Norwich have also been deemed inaccessible through a number of reports and FOIs.