I’m not great with redacting PDFs so have decided to post just the text of Rob Wilson’s reply to my complaint here. Who knows what loonies are out there looking at my full name and address? I have more than enough mentalists in my life already. Let me know your thoughts (on the reply, not the mentalists)!
Dear Mrs F,
I am writing to convey my apologies for the situation that arose at my constituency office on Friday October 7 ,2011 when you were unable to gain access for your appointment with me.
It is my intention to make myself available to all my constituents, and this is achieved by holding surgeries in various locations around my Reading East constituency. In the past I have scheduled appointments with my disabled constituents at Woodley Library, which has excellent wheelchair access, and I am also able to meet with disabled constituents at the Warehouse Community Centre. I am disappointed that the system failed on this occasion and can assure you that I have taken steps to ensure this situation is not repeated.
I have asked my staff to update my website to reflect the surgery locations that offer wheelchair access and to be more diligent when scheduling appointments. I have also taken this opportunity to remind my staff about maintaining professionalism at all times.
I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise for the length of time you were waiting outside to speak with me. Unfortunately I was already engaged in an appointment with another constituent and was not aware of the situation that developed.
I look forward to meeting with you on Friday.
Dear Mr Wilson,
Further to our correspondence over my treatment at the hands of NHS Berkshire West and the request by Dr. RH of UCL for you to look into my case, I followed your instruction and made an appointment to attend one of your surgeries on 7 October at 3.15pm. I booked a double appointment because of my communication difficulties.
As I believe that you have been informed, I arrived at your office on Friday in plenty of time. I was concerned to note that cars were parked closely together directly in front of the entrance and there was a step up to the doorway. My assistant, Harriet, went to ring the doorbell and it was answered by MS. When she was asked where the disabled access was she replied that there wasn’t any. Once I was out of my car she approached us and started talking to my assistant, not acknowledging that I was speaking to her until directed to do so. Her manner was hostile and extremely dismissive. I pointed out that it is against the law to prevent a disabled person from accessing services and that I hadn’t been informed that the office was not accessible when I made the appointment. Her response was, ‘Well, I didn’t make the appointment’, that the other surgeries were accessible and that I hadn’t informed the office that I was disabled. We explained that all that was needed to comply with the law was a portable ramp to which Ms S replied, ‘I haven’t got money to go round buying ramps’ followed by, ‘there’s no point having a go at me’, in an extremely rude tone.
It was suggested that Harriet and I could wait outside until your current meeting had finished and that you would then come out to talk to me. We agreed and subsequently waited in the car park for approximately 30 minutes. I became very cold and it began to rain. I decided that I was not prepared to wait any longer because my illness is aggravated by coldness and I was already in considerable discomfort. Harriet explained this to Matt who was in the office at the time.
I am only too well aware of the difficulties involved in making premises and services accessible to all. I understand that older properties are not always suitable for adjustments to be made. However, I am making this complaint because of Ms S’s attitude when faced with me and my wheelchair. The Equality Act 2010 states that disabled people have rights of access to services. A service provider must make reasonable adjustments for disabled people in the way that they deliver their services. This did not happen in my case when I attended my appointment at your constituents’ surgery last Friday. Not only was the law not followed but I was subjected to unpleasant and insulting behaviour by a member of your staff and then suffered the indignity of being left outside in a car park waiting for my MP to turn up late for a scheduled appointment. I also find it surprising that you have made no personal apology to me. A little bit of understanding and empathy can go a long way towards resolving an incident of this nature yet the only person in your office who attempted to improve the situation was your intern, Matt. He went out of his way to try & find a ramp, he offered us hot drinks while we waited, he was polite and he apologised in person at the time and via email later. Ms S would do well to take note.
I have been in touch with Matt about you visiting me at my home. I would hope that this will happen as soon as possible as the matters I wish to bring to your attention have time limits attached. In the meantime, I look forward to receiving your response to the points I have raised.
Just received an email ‘reply’ from EHRC – I use the term loosely as ‘reply’ implies that you actually read and understood the original query.
In order for a person to be classed as having a disability they have to meet the definition of a disability as set out by the Act. The Act says that a person must have a mental or physical impairment which has a substantial, adverse effect on one or more of their normal day to day activities. The substantial effects should be long term meaning they have lasted 12 months, are likely to last for 12 months or for the rest of a person’s life.
If a service provider requires an individual to sign a legal contract it is likely that this procedure should be adhered to. The service provider would need to consider making reasonable adjustments to this procedure if it placed a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage.
From the information that you have given, it appears that the DWP made a reasonable adjustment by allowing you an appointee who could sign the forms. This reasonable adjustment may not have been suitable as this would then have meant that the appointee would be held responsible for the liability of the car.
The DWP could look at other adjustments they could make in order for you to sign the forms for the Motability contract hire scheme. May I ask if you have a signature stamp? If you do then it is possible that the DWP could accept this method of signing the forms.
If you feel that the DWP have failed to make reasonable adjustments for you, you could consider taking formal action. There are strict time limits of 6 months minus 1 day from a specific incident date to do this. It is your responsibility to take the appropriate action within this time.
I can’t decide if I can be bothered to write back and explain that forcing someone to relinquish their rights when they’re a perfectly competent and intelligent human being is HARDLY A REASONABLE ADJUSTMENT.