Covered by Hannah Lawrence EDP – 03/12/2016
Protesters gathered outside an Atos assessment centre in Norwich to rally against the lack of accessibility for people with disabilities.
Members of Equal Lives, a charity that supports people with disabilities, and the Disabled People Against the Cuts group, called for services at the centre at St Francis House, Queens Road, to be made more accessible for people with disabilities.
The protesters held placards calling for the closure of the inaccessible assessment centre.
Atos runs assessments for the Personal Independence Payments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions at two centres in Norwich, with the second on Prince of Wales Road.
Personal Independence Payments are means tested allowances* which seek to help with the costs of long term illness or disability. (*Correction – Personal Independence Payments are not means tested)
Equal Lives chief executive, Mark Harrison, described the accessibility problems as “embarrassing”. He said: “In Norwich we have an embarrassing situation. We have a disability assessment centre that is not accessible to disabled people.”
Protesters said accessibility problems at the centre included heavy doors which are hard to open, not enough parking and difficulties crossing the road outside the centre.
Mr Harrison said: “You take your life in your hands coming across the road.”
Melanie Leader, of Equal Lives, said: “I found the access to the assessment centre inadequate. “This all adds to the stress you are already feeling with having to attend such an assessment. They are assessing us as disabled people, surely it is common sense to make sure their assessment centres are totally accessible.”
A statement from Atos said: “We do our utmost to make our centres as accessible as possible and recognise the current parking could be improved. That’s why we continue to engage local groups as we look for a solution. We are happy to report that an intercom will soon be installed at the rear door which is kept locked so staff can assist all arrivals.”