I am sooooo ANGRY!!! ….. Yesterday, I had to go to the dentist with my Support Worker, H, obviously in my wheelchair. I don’t have a fear of dentists anymore…I’ve had so much dental treatment over the years, I’ve just got used to it. Nevertheless, like most people, I don’t find it a pleasurable experience either. But this wasn’t about an unpleasant experience in the dentist’s chair; more about being able to even get into the dental practice in the first place!
I’ve been a loyal NHS patient at this particular dental surgery for 34 years. I wasn’t disabled at first, although the very early signs of my condition were just becoming evident but now I am confined to a wheelchair as most of you know. My dental surgery has a step up to the front of it which I am unable to use and there is no disabled access anywhere else to the building. Up till now, it’s always been a couple of dentists and maybe a couple of unfortunate patients in the waiting room who have rather ungainly lifted my wheelchair over the threshold. Now, suddenly, no-one there is allowed to help me in any way because of insurances reasons which I can appreciate as H. isn’t insured to lift or move me either. I have been asking for months if they could get a cheap fold-up ramp to give access to their wheelchair patients but no, nothing so far.
I was sitting by the entrance door, waiting for someone to come up with a solution. In the meantime, I was blocking the entrance door so no-one could get in or out (I felt like an exhibit in a Victorian freak show). Eventually, the head receptionist decided that she would get me in over the step! (Where the insurance regulations went at that moment is anybody’s guess!). I felt totally humiliated being hoisted over the threshold as if I were a piece of luggage. It was most undignified. She pushed me into the waiting room and said, patronizingly, “There we are, I’ve put you by the window in the sunshine!”, as if I were a plant pot!
I eventually got to see my dentist (by which time I was in tears), he was really kind and apologized on behalf of the other staff. I was in and out in ten minutes. Then he said, “You’ll need to come back next week”. Aaaaargh!!
In the meantime….I have contacted the Equality, Advice and Support Services who have assured me that I was correct in my thinking. All public service providers must, by law, provide access for people with disabilities. I now have a template to write the correct letter to my dental surgery advising them of this and I am being backed up by the EASS who are an official body. OK. I know I won’t be very popular with the staff after this but hey, I have the satisfaction of knowing that every disabled person who attends that surgery will have dignified access and will not be discriminated against.