'PROVE you're disabled': What council told wheelchair-bound spina bifida sufferer when she tried to use toilets
Nicola Parnell said staff told her to go home and come back with evidence she really had spina bifida
17:32 GMT, 5 June 2012
A woman in a wheelchair who asked for a key to the disabled toilets was horrified when council staff told her to provide proof that she really had spina bifida.
Nicola Parnell, 32, visited East Staffordshire Borough Council’s customer services office to buy access to the facilities at her local shopping centre in Burton-on-Trent.
But she said jobsworth staff demanded she produce evidence of her chronic illness – despite the fact she was in a wheelchair and her body is the size of a 10-year-old's.
Shocked: Nicola Parnell was left distraught when council staff told her to go home and get evidence she really had spina bifida
'I asked the receptionist if I could buy a key and she said she couldn’t give me one unless I could prove that I was disabled,' said a shocked Ms Parnell.
'She said I’d need to go home and come back with some identification; either my blue badge or a letter showing my disability living allowance.
'What more proof did she need than me being in front of her in a wheelchair I clearly look disabled.
'My body is about the same size as a 10-year-old’s – surely that is enough proof.'
Ms Parnell claims she asked a receptionist to look for her details on the council’s computer system as she had been to the office a month earlier to update her blue badge.
'Discrimination': Ms Parnell, 32, said she was told by customer services to produce her blue badge or a letter before she could be given a key to the disabled toilets
'She told me she couldn’t access my details and she could no longer help me unless I had proof of my disability', she added.
'I was completely stunned and upset by what happened. I was shocked. I felt discriminated against.
'I want to raise awareness of how disabled people can be treated. I’ve never had to prove that I’m disabled before, especially just to buy a toilet key.'
Ms Parnell has now lodged a formal complaint about the incident.
Complaint: Distraught Ms Parnell has now received a letter of apology from East Staffordshire Borough Council's customer services office
A spokesman for East Staffordshire Borough Council said: 'The council prides itself on good customer service and it is unfortunate that Ms Parnell’s experience was not a positive one.
'The issue with the key has been resolved and the customer has been contacted.
'Our staff are well aware that, while there are guidelines to follow, they can, and in the majority of cases do, act with an element of discretion, as should have been displayed on this occasion.
'This message has been reaffirmed to all the staff.'