A ROYAL Mail office is facing criticism of discrimination against disabled residents after a number of incidents left two women hesitant to even collect their parcels.
Nikki Zawada, 30, from Locks Heath, suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS) which causes severe mobility problems and forces her to use crutches to get around.
She says that she has been consistently discriminated against by Royal Mail staff at the office in Brook Lane, Sarisbury Green, with disabled parking hours being cut and delivery drivers consistently parking in disabled spaces.
This means that Nikki has to walk from the next nearest car park – hundreds of metres away from the Royal Mail office – just to collect a parcel, with carrying the parcel back to the car being almost impossible to do.
She said: ‘The office is open from 7am-2pm, but they are claiming that I can only park there from 10am-12pm – despite there being no signage to say that is the case.
‘They say the reason for this is health and safety – but surely it would be more dangerous to have disabled people walking through the car park instead of just parking up in the disabled space.
‘It heavily restricts disabled people from coming in to collect their parcels and I wonder if it is against disability access laws.’
But restricted parking hours is not the only problem Nikki and other disabled residents face at the Royal Mail office.
On a number of occasions Nikki has had to confront delivery drivers after they parked their vans in the disabled places.
She said: ‘It feels like they have no problem with discriminating against disabled people and get very agitated when I ask them about it – it feels horrible to be treated like that.
‘The staff at this Royal Mail office are forcing disabled visitors to do things that are physically impossible for them – these disabled spaces are there for a reason and now not only can we only park there during a two-hour period, we often get there and see Royal Mail vans parked there instead.
‘If it’s just a case of not knowing what we’re going through then the least they could do is learn from the disabled community and find out what we’re going through.’
Felicity Burleigh-Thurston, also 30 from Locks Heath, has been facing similar issues at the Royal Mail office.
She said: ‘It has just been non-stop over the past few months – it doesn’t matter what we do, they just continue to discriminate against us.
‘On numerous occasions you go in and the Royal Mail vans are parked in the disabled space and the one next to it.
‘People seem to think that these disabled places don’t matter, but they’re incredibly important to us.’
A Royal Mail spokeswoman said: ‘Royal Mail takes its equality and diversity obligations seriously and we are committed to making adjustments for disabled individuals wherever reasonably possible to do so.
‘At Sarisbury Green Delivery Office, there are a number of Royal Mail vehicles manoeuvring in the yard prior to 10am as our postmen and women prepare to go out on deliveries.
‘We have a duty to keep our people and our customers safe so no members of the public are permitted access into the delivery office yard before 10am to prevent any accidents.
‘We can rearrange any deliveries free of charge for customers, including on a Saturday, as an alternative to visiting our office to collect mail and all disabled customers are permitted access into the yard between 10am and 2pm.’
But leader of Fareham Borough Council, Cllr Sean Woodward, is not satisfied with how the pair have been treated.
He said: ‘This is absolutely outrageous and discriminatory treatment of people with a disability.
‘The office is open between 7am and 2pm and disabled parking bays are provided.
‘To restrict people to a two hour slot just because they have a disability is simply not on. I very much hope that Royal Mail will immediately cease this practise.’