There are some stories which are just unbelievable and this is one of them - spina bifida sufferer and wheelchair bound Nicola Parnell being told she would have to prove she was actually disabled before being allowed to use the disabled toilet.
I doubt Nicola Parnell had any idea what obstructiveness she was to come up against when she visited the council offices in Burton-on-Trent to purchase a raydar key for the local shopping centre's toilet.
The 32-year-old went up to the reception desk at the council and evidently came up against a complete jobsworth. She asked to purchase the key – why she would have to purchase this raydar key I have no idea but that is obviously a matter of investigation for another time – and the staff member behind the counter basically replied, not until you prove you are actually disabled.
So let's pause and reflect for a minute. The fact Ms Parnell is in a wheelchair is not enough then. Have we really reached the point that we cannot be trusting in a situation where a person in a wheelchair asks to use the disabled facilities? Yes there are cases of people trying to claim disability benefit and the like under false pretences, but she wants to use the lavatory for goodness sake, not claim thousands of pounds off the government.
There is also the additional and very important fact that spina bifida has a very obvious external feature, that of making its sufferers remain with the body of a child. Indeed Ms Parnell has the body of a ten-year-old.
This again did not seem proof enough for the council's jobsworth.
They were adamant, and they actually said this to Ms Parnell, that they could not be of any more assistance to her unless she went back home and got some proof of her identity – her blue badge or her disability living allowance papers for example.
Ms Parnell then quite reasonably suggested the member of staff look her details up on the council's computer as she had only recently been in to update her blue badge.
The staff member refused.
Understandably, Ms Parnell said she was left shocked and upset by the incident and she had felt discriminated against.
She has since made a formal complaint against the council and quite right too.
The council has replied by saying they apologise for how Ms Parnell was treated but it was procedure that people must show proof of their disability. They did admit however that there were cases when an element of discretion should be used by staff.
I say in most cases there should be proof enough right in front of their eyes without having to bring out any paperwork. If a person comes skipping into the council offices asking for a key to the disabled toilet don't give it to them, but if they are blatantly wheelchair bound just hand it over. It's not like the toilets are going to be five star facilities anyway so what's the big deal?