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.
Life was going smoothly for a few weeks there but it looks like I’ve found a new battle. I must have looked bored!
Just emailed the EHRC:
I believe that the Department for Work & Pensions are discriminating against me because of my disability.
I have motor neurone disease and as a result am paralysed. As such, I am unable to hold a pen and therefore unable to sign documents. Because of this, against my better judgement, I agreed last year to my friend becoming my appointee for DWP purposes. To do this, I had to declare that I am incapable of managing my affairs. At the time, my survival rested on my receipt of benefits so I allowed this to happen only to facilitate my financial security. I no longer rely on means-tested benefits but still receive Disability Living Allowance and Incapacity Benefit.
In April of this year I began the process of applying for a wheelchair accessible vehicle through the Motability contract hire scheme. Recently, my DWP appointee was informed by Motability Operations that it would be her who would be held legally responsible for the car, not me. For obvious reasons, neither her nor I were willing for this to happen. I am more than capable of taking responsibility for my own car plus she has no wish to have any liability for a car which she has no control over the use of.
I informed the DWP that my friend was no longer willing to be my appointee over the phone and submitted the forms with a ‘P.P.’ signature, as instructed by the vehicle supplier. However, when they submitted the forms to the DWP the process ground to a halt. My mother telephoned the DWP to inquire what the problem was. They refused to divulge any information to her or me and informed her that if I was unable to sign the form then I would be unable to have a car on the Motability scheme.
I intend to make a complaint to the DWP but am I right in claiming that they are breaching the Equality Act 2010 by not making reasonable adjustments to the service that they provide? Surely I should not have to hand over my autonomy to someone else because the DWP have not anticipated my inability to hold a pen and sign? I’m certain that I am not the only service user with a brain that functions but hands that don’t.
I await your advice. Thank you very much for your assistance.