“Humiliated and disgusted” : Wheelchair-bound Sandra Hall turned away from Croydon’s only disability assessment centre – because she couldn’t climb the stairs
A disabled woman was left “humiliated and disgusted” when she was turned away from a disability assessment centre – because she couldn’t climb the STAIRS.
Sandra Hall, 37, was also told that she could not use the lift to get into the centre, because wheelchair users are banned for ‘health and safety’ reasons.
Wheelchair-bound Sandra is unable to walk, and had gone to the centre for her annual fitness-to-work evaluation.
But when she arrived, she was told that anyone who cannot climb the stairs to the first floor of the centre, in Croydon, south London, is banned from using the lifts.
Sandra, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and cannot walk unaided, was turned away from the appointment at Croydon’s only disability assessment centre on July 4.
Croydon resident Sandra said: “I was absolutely fuming.
“I was crying because I thought they would stop my money because I couldn’t come, it was really upsetting.
“It is very difficult to move – my hips, my knees, joints are in constant agony.”
The centre, near East Croydon station, is run by private contractor Maximus, who carry out the tests for the Government.
The bizarre rule has forced claimants to make a 14-mile round trip to Balham for an assessment.
Sandra is required to attend yearly assessments to prove she is not able to work and is therefore entitled to benefits.
Despite giving Maximus prior notice she is wheelchair-bound, Sandra was turned away from the meeting after being told the building was unsuitable for her.
Staff said that in the event of an evacuation she would be expected to use the stairs to leave the building and, since she cannot climb them, it would be a health-and-safety risk to allow her access to the first floor.
She added: “To get down the stairs when I’m at home I have to shuffle on my bottom, so if there is a fire how can I shuffle down the stairs on my bottom?
“I have never felt so humiliated and upset and disgusted in all my life.
“For a place that is meant to be for disabled people it is not really disabled-friendly.”
Sandra’s appointment was rescheduled to Balham last week, forcing her husband Geoff to take another day off work and putting more financial strain on the couple.
A spokesman for Maximus said the company would investigate why Sandra was booked to be assessed in Croydon.
He said: “Whenever a customer informs us that they have mobility issues we arrange for them to be seen at another local centre that has assessment rooms on the ground floor.”
He said any changes to wheelchair access at the centre was the responsibility of the DWP.
It was reported in 2011 that Atos Healthcare, which provided the assessments until Maximus took over in March last year, was turning wheelchair users away from the building because they were unable to use the stairs, and the problem has continued.
A spokeswoman for the DWP said: “Access guidance is included in appointment letters so that alternative arrangements can be made if needed, and anyone unable to travel as a result of their condition is offered a home visit.
“If claimants are unable to use the stairs at Croydon Assessment Centre, they can be booked into centres in nearby Wimbledon or Balham instead, and a taxi is offered if required.”