Surbiton Health Centre under fire as disabled patients brand site an 'assault course' (From Surrey Comet)
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Surbiton Health Centre under fire as disabled patients brand site an 'assault course'
The multi-million pound Surbiton Health Centre is facing yet more criticism from unhappy patients – this time over inadequate disabled access.
Disability groups have accused developers of failing to listen to their advice before the centre opened, with one patient branding the site an “assault course” for visually-impaired people.
The shortcomings – outlined in a report due to be heard by Kingston councillors next month – include: l Inadequate signs for visually impaired patients.
l Corridors too narrow for wheelchairs or buggies to pass one another.
l No “tactile” paving at front of building to direct visually-impaired patients.
l Staff kitchen not suitable for employees in wheelchairs with high tables, cupboards and sinks.
l Lack of hoists to lift visitors out of wheelchairs.
Tolworth resident Philip Indge, 43, said: “For people who are visually impaired, the Surbiton Health Centre is more like an assault course.
"I nearly got run over in the car park because the paths are not the same level.
"I have a guide dog who responds to tactile pavements and kerbs, and none of that was down. I’m not going back there.”
In February, a group of disability campaigners was shown around the centre shortly before it opened. Their findings form the basis of an access report going to Kingston Council’s health and overview panel in September.
Among the group was Councillor Mary Heathcote, the deputy chairman of the health overview scrutiny committee, who is registered blind.
She said: “Some time ago I formed a group of disabled people that planners and developers could consult when a major development was being built.
“I kept on emphasising the importance of fully involving the needs of people with disabilities, because they are similar to sick and elderly people.”
Coun Heathcote added: “I have to say that I have been left disappointed.”
Theo Harris, chief executive of Kingston Centre for Independent Living, was also part of the group.
She said: “We would like to see people who are experts by experience providing input for a new build, and when everything is complete these people who have given their time and expertise can see their views have been taken on board.
“They are not going to be able to say that about this building.”
Fran O’Brien, founder of disabled arts group Young Gifted and Positively Artistic (Yadapa), said: “They only called an access panel in to tick a box.”
The criticism caps a difficult first six months for Surbiton Health Centre.
No sooner had the building opened on March 4 than staff had to apologise for problems with the new phone system, which made it almost impossible for patients to get through.
Then in May, parents at the adjacent Lime Tree Primary School launched a petition to move a needle exchange for drug addicts away from the centre, which they claimed was opened without their knowledge.
The centre is managed by the South West London Health Partnership, which has yet to comment.
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