Friday, February 15, 2008

That beautifully ironic misnomer, 'Access to Work'

How about 'We Block Your Access to Work' or 'We Laugh At Your Inability To Open Large Double Doors Without Regularly And Painfully Subluxing Your Shoulders, You Scrounger' or 'Your Appalling Lack of Access Is Our Profit' or 'We Pay Our Assessors Six Times What You Earn Per Hour So That They Can Recommend Products That Bear No Relation To Your Needs'? Other suggestions gladly accepted.

Here is an e-mail I sent to my 'Access to Work' advisor this evening. Note that I attempted to be polite. I probably failed in a major way, though... E-mail is slightly edited to protect my identity (don't much care about anyone else's!), but very little has been taken out.

Dear Ms -,

Thank you for organizing the ergonomic and complex assessments for me, which have now resulted in some of my equipment arriving (I am still waiting for the desk chair - I'll let you know when it arrives). Some of the equipment is unsuitable and will have to be sent back, but some of of it is going to be very helpful. Many thanks.

I have been contacted by [name of assessor] at [name of company that carries out AtW's assessments]. He wanted to do an assessment of the physical premises at which I work. You may remember that I was asking urgently for such an assessment back in August, and that I was told repeatedly, both by yourself and [assessment company] that it was not possible. I have had to tell [assessor] that, since my contract ends in July - and he says that the assessment plus work on the buildings is likely to take longer than this - I cannot agree to this assessment at the moment, as it would not be of any use to me.

For your information, in relation to future jobs that I may have, [assessor] has said that I must have this assessment done at the earliest possible opportunity when I am in my next job. I would like to ask that this request is upheld, so that I need not wait so long again for the work premises assessment. The delays incurred because of confusion over whether or not such an assessment was necessary have caused me a lot of pain and stress, including having to have several weeks off work recently. I very much hope that I will now be able to keep going until July, but this is by no means certain, largely because of the building where I work, as well as the way that my employer asks me to move around a large, only partly-accessible campus so often during my working day.

Naomi -

Some more background to this is that I was asking for this assessment to be done, as a matter of urgency, between August and November (when I gave up asking, out of sheer exhaustion). Two of this company's assessors, who came to do IT and workstation assessments for me, recommended that the building assessment was done as soon as possible. Nothing happened. I continued to ask my AtW advisor for it, as the manager of the assessment company was getting nasty and practically accused me of being demanding, and still nothing happened. Then I went off work for six weeks. Now the manager of the assessment company is ringing, only six months too late, to ask if I'd like this assessment. Not only that, but he rather patronisingly told me today to get this assessment done "as quickly as possible in any future jobs you are in. Don't leave it this long in future." Oh, well, thank you so much for the advice. I only wish I'd thought of it myself. *headdesk*

Oh, and this fantastic equipment that arrived today, most of which is completely unsuitable? I've been waiting for it since November.

Yes, I forgot to post yesterday. It's been a *really* long week. Work is manic, I had to meet a scary official of the Church of England on Wednesday (the joys of being a PCC member), and I actually managed to drag myself to the pool on Thursday and do fourteen lengths through quite some pain. I want to get into a sport that I can do from my wheelchair. I just can't find one that doesn't involve hand-eye coordination or possible dislocations. I may go for something that could cause dislocations anyway. I haven't had one since I was a child, so my joints may have stiffened up just enough to avoid them now. And it would hardly be the end of the world anyway. Hmm. Must try to find out if any interesting classes are running locally and whether they'd let me do an activity from a wheelchair. I'll avoid discussing my diagnosis in too much detail. :-D

Edited to add: Yay! The Puddle is OK! And it's growing. Hurrah. The little things...


Elizabeth McClung said...

okay, I like a challenge

Possible sports: Horse riding, seated volleyball (paraolympic sport not sure if near you), Archery (does it matter to you if you HIT anything?), Badminton (how did that get in here, I thought it was for no hand eye coordination!), Kickboxing in the pool (seriously, they have it at my YMCA/YWCA, Dance class (in the wheelchair), Gentle Yoga (hmmm on dislocation), Women and Wieghts - also I would look at a local women's only fitness place like Curves and see what programs they have which could be adapted, adative skiing, Foosball, Pinball, Bridge or other card game club, chess club, choir, Assisted rambling (okay that might be reaching), how about assisted city walks...oh those stairs, Assisted rifelry (spelled horribly, they can create a special device to hold the gun while you aim and shoot it - also a sport in the paralympics), Judo (yeah, no dislocations here! haha), Arthurian Society (admittedly not a sport but when I was in one they did seem to have a lot of fun getting dressed up and going to the pub, which I GUESS could be a sport), I would also check all the clubs of the local uni because I have run out of idea for this minute. Will let you know however.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

AtW are an utter nightmare, your experiences sound quite similar to mine which were a significant factor in my job loss. I really feel that at the heart of all this stuff, AtW, New Deal etc is profit making and not the govt's much hyped aim of assisting people into work. (but then why should it be anything else with this govt's track record)

As for sport, I don't know how bendy you are, but I love yoga type exercises (when I actually do any), sure I'll sublux and dislocate madly, but I've found that keeping supple up to and even extending my end of range keeps me more comfortable.

For me, archery would be out, I'd dislocate trying to lift let alone pull back the bow (not that I care about that, but strength would be an issue) same for most of Elizabeth's recommendations actually. Things like swimming are probably best, but if you want to do a sport, I'd go for pilates, fun, and the very best thing for bendy people to improve core stability at the same time. I keep meaning to find a class!

Good luck, BG x

Anonymous said...

Everyone I know who uses Access to Work agrees that they haven't got a clue. They really do need a complete overhaul. I have found the best tactic is to ring/email them every day until they cave in, basically annoy them so much that they 'fast track' you (well that's what they call it).

As for exercising - check out this fitness dvd 'Chair Workout' at

Elizabeth McClung said...

Most of the sports I listed for paralympic participation have adaptive equipment - for example the archery mentioned, can be put on a mounted block and for example, if you look at the UK's paralympic archery pictures shows at least one archer who uses an adaptive mouthpiece to pull back the string (the power is compensated with a block and tackle system for those with limited strength). Obvously dislocating your NECK would be bad, I am just saying that there really is a lot of adaptive equipment out there originally for complex spinal cord injury individuals, but why don't we start nicking some of it for ourselves?

Elizabeth McClung said...

Sorry, back again. From what I have read EDS experts say: no heavy or repetative lifting, nothing that could cause joint to lock or overextend. Obviously, I don't have this and you do which makes you the expert in my book far more than the published experts (because you know your limits, they talk only about "Statistically"). There is one case I found where the person seemed of a similar level (someone walking by would 'jostle' her and dislocate her shoulder) - and she was on the school swim team. Isometric training is advocated and sounds as boring as it looks.

Someone with what seems to be similar EDS does swimming and plans to do.....Martial Arts - with an EDS instructor.

All I know is that from what I have read, most doctors seem to spend a great deal of time saying what NOT to do. Tell me what you like to do and I will try to find the adaptive equipment and the way to do it (please do NOT include like bungee jumping!). Just because people haven't done it before, doesn't mean there isn't a way it is possible (though that might SOUND psycho, it really isn't - since I am keen to try Javalin throwing with an adaptive arm device! Oh, wait, that might have sounded psycho)

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