15th August 2011 / Tom Quarry
Kiosks in Worcestershire, West Midlands have attracted criticism as they allegedly ‘discriminate’ against disabled users.
Wyre Forest District Council (WFDC) has installed some payment kiosks at the Worcestershire Hub and Kidderminster Town Hall in an effort to save the authority £25,000 a year through cutting staff costs. However, the technology has caused outrage in the community in that a disabled man reportedly feels discriminated against as he cannot use the new machines from his wheelchair. The kiosks, which cost the council £13,000, were deployed so residents could pay for council tax, housing bills and paying blue badge and other charges without face-to-face contact with a staff personnel. But according to Mark Lawley, of Disability Action Wyre Forest (DAWF), the machines are not user-friendly and are out of reach for wheelchair users as the messages on the screens are not visible from that height, and there is no privacy as people can see over his head. Lawley said that the self-service touch screen kiosk fail because they cannot be used any wheelchair users. He added: “I feel discriminated against. It’s not a very positive attitude towards disabled people. They really haven’t thought this through…The council is at risk of legal action if the service cannot be used.” The Equality Act 2010 is the law which bans unfair treatment and helps achieve equal opportunities in the workplace and in wider society.
The act covers nine protected characteristics which are; age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. The Act does explain how reasonable adjustments should be made for disabled persons to avoid the disadvantage. District council leader, Conservative councillor John Campion, said: “Changes have been made with the customer in mind. We recognise that one size doesn’t fit all and it’s very unfair to say we are discriminating against a certain user group.” A spokeswoman for WFDC said: “We are aware that there are issues for people with disabilities and we are working to address them by providing alternative ways for people to pay and having customer service advisers on hand to help people who may have specific difficulties.” Protouch offers guidance on the placement of touch screen technology in order to enable all users use the kiosk. By featuring internet access on the machines, help instructions can also be offered to those few people who find it difficult to use, and not just the disabled.
Pic Credit: The Kidderminster Shuttle