Protest at Norwich disability centre which barred wheelchair user

The lack of wheelchair access to a disability assessment centre sparked a protest this morning.

A demonstration was held outside St Mary's House, in Duke Street, Norwich, where disability tests are held by private contractor, Atos Healthcare.

Disabled people are angry that the centre is inaccessible to wheelchair users, has no parking and is a not near a bus or train station.

Buxton couple Elly and Glen Everett said they only found out St Mary's House was not suitable for wheelchair users when Mrs Everett was refused entry.

The 29-year-old said: 'I went there for my own assessment in the wheelchair and there was no problem or questions asked, except I couldn't get into the toilets because I couldn't get through the door.

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'But when I returned with Glen for his assessment, just days later, I wasn't allowed in the building and they said no one in a wheelchair was allowed in for health and safety reasons.'

The Norwich office is in theory accessible for people in wheelchairs, but Atos, which is paid �100m a year by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to conduct the tests, will not make appointments for wheelchair users as the centre is on the second floor.

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In the event of an emergency the lift would be out of action and a wheelchair user could not be safely evacuated from the building.

An Atos Healthcare spokeswoman said: 'Everybody is advised when they make an appointment by telephone or by post that the assessment is not on the ground floor.

'If they would be unable to walk down the stairs in the event of an emergency such as a fire, when the lift would be out of use, we schedule an appointment at an alternative nearby assessment centre that is on the ground floor or arrange a home visit.'

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