Dec 132012

Cross posted and with thanks to Kate Belgrave

Ever since disabled man Geoff Meeghan was trapped in an Atos assessment centre a week or so ago when a fire alarm went off at the centre there’s been much discussion about the accessibility – or otherwise – of the buildings that Atos is using to hold work capability assessments for the employment and support allowance. ESA is a disability allowance, so it follows that a lot of people who must attend work capability assessments are wheelchair users and/or people who have mobility problems. You’d think that at the very least, buildings would be properly adapted to make entering and leaving those buildings as easy as possible for everyone.

Au contraire.

I took the video below in September when I accompanied DPAC campaigner Patrick Lynch and his carer Stephen to the assessment centre in Archway where Patrick’s WCA was to be held. I’ve uploaded it here to give you an idea of the rubbish which passes for accessibility in some of these centres.

As you’ll see in the video, the front doors at the centre wouldn’t open. A woman who was smoking a cigarette out the front came over to show us how to open the doors – she pulled them open with her bare hands. The “lift” was a single platform squeezed into the right-hand side of the groundfloor entrance. To call the lift, we had to hold the call button down and keep it held down. The door into the cupboard (which it was, literally) which housed this platform opened outwards, into the path of the wheelchair. Once inside, the platform only started moving when the call button was held down. It certainly took more than one person to operate everything.

I don’t know what would have happened if there had been a fire. Using this lift for escape purposes would have been challenging, all right, especially if you tried to fit more than one wheelchair in it. There may have been a brilliant, if not brilliantly obvious, escape route out back, of course, but if there was, nobody told us about it. Would we have had to find it ourselves?

Kate Belgrave

See also: DPAC Survey responses on WCA: Atos and DWP Exposed


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  6 Responses to “Rotten access to Atos assessment centres”

  1. Sorry this is not about building access but I wanted to share it; At my recent WCA the atmosphere in the waiting area was predictable, a mixture of nerves, fear and apprehension. Single people stared ahead, unmoving whilst couples squeezed each others hands trying to instill some courage into themselves.Despite this there were two instances which shone through the foggy gloom like a torch beam and made me smile. The first occasion was when the atos receptionist was trying to make a Latvian lady understand that her WCA would have to be postponed because no interpretor had been organised. The latvian lady only used the words “yes” “no” and ” I go now,ok” and did not appear to understand what she was being told. In an effort to get the message across, the atos lady got up out of her chair, leaned over close to the latvian lady and spoke louder and louder until she was practically shouting at her. It was like a Basil and Manuel Faulty Towers sketch and amusing in that people think if they speak very loud they will get some-one to understand them. My second moment of mirth came when the same receptionist told a chap that his WCA would have to be postponed because there was no qualified Doctor or Nurse available to see them. What a cheek I thought, had some-one the nerve to ask to be assessed by a proper qualified Doctor or Nurse. My smile soon went as I wondered who or what I would be assessed by.

  2. thats the whole point the buildings are an assessment if you can hold that button down for lift nothing wrong with your hands if you can pull heavy door open nothing wrong with your strength if you can squeeze into that lift nothing wrong with your mobility

  3. I coudn’t have held that button down, my hands are too weak.

  4. The Atos centres are made difficult to enter for disabled people on purpose. How many lifts in the real world have buttons you need to keep depressed for the lift to operate ?
    Tried to leave a comment on youtube channel but no-can-do, not sure why because my account is active. meh.

  5. At my assessment in Wolverhampton a few weeks ago the lift was out of order which meant a climb up two flights of stairs to the atos floor.Many of the people waiting to be seen used sticks or crutches with great difficulty to get up the stairs whilst an atos doorman walked behind them.There were no emergency evacuation plans to be seen nor were we told what to do in case of a fire. The bare,barren state of the place showed it was a venue that atos rented just for assessments. The ground floor was an empty replica of the floor atos were using which could have been used for assessments but then the “lift out of action” and the stair climb is all part of the atos plan to say people could walk up stairs. The whole thing is stage managed from the moment you arrive at the place, stiff doors to push open, no lift, stairs to climb, rows of tatty chairs facing away from the reception desk so that when called you could show atos how you can hear your name, get out of the chair, stand up, turn around and walk over to the person who called you, the assessment room unbearably hot and with a 3kw electric heater pointed at you a few feet away. Even though the atos lady switched the heater off the room was still so hot that I had to take my winter coat off, another thing that atos could say I could do on their form.

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