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Post Office acts on counter access

The Post Office is making more than 11,000 of its branches more accessible for people with disabilities after an actress with dwarfism sued it because she could not reach a chip-and-pin machine.

Kiruna Stamell, who has appeared in EastEnders and the film Moulin Rouge, successfully sued the Post Office for disability discrimination after she was unable to get the company to put the machines on flexible leads.

In light of her case the Post Office has now changed the chip-and-pin machines in more than 300 of its largest branches, putting them on a lead, and is bringing in low level counters in thousands of its branches.

Ms Stamell, who is just over a metre tall, said she had experienced problems reaching chip-and-pin machines in post office branches because they are bolted to the counter top.

She said: "The design was less flexible than in other shops. In places like Boots, Tesco and my bank the pin machines are held in a holster. They also have a broader range of movement because they are on a flexible tether, so can be handed to the customer.

"When I shop most places, I am usually handed the pin machine by shop staff, so I can privately enter my pin.

"Unfortunately, I had several negative experiences at post office counters and for many years I have had difficulty paying for their goods and services. After a couple of really upsetting experiences at various branches, I realised, something needed to change."

During one encounter at a Post Office branch she found the chip-and-pin machine out of reach, and said then suffered the embarrassment of having staff build makeshift steps for her while people waited.

She told the BBC: "It was really embarrassing, because there was a very large queue of people behind me. I just wanted to be able to put my pin in like everybody else and post a letter and to withdraw cash, and I wasn't able to reach the machine and it wasn't able to be passed to me.

"So staff were improvising random steps out of cardboard boxes, and it was really quite humiliating."

Ms Stamell claimed disability discrimination because of the Post Office's failure to make reasonable adjustments to the machines, which would accommodate her restricted height.

Mark Davies, the company's communications and corporate affairs director, said he wanted customers who are unhappy with a service to discuss them with the Post Office.

He told the BBC: "We are absolutely going to listen to them and I think, as in the case with Kiruna, we've listened to the points that she's raised with us, we've taken action."

A spokeswoman for the Post Office added: " We want to make it as easy as possible for the millions of people who visit our branches each week to access our services. We listen to our customers and are pleased to be making the improvements needed following the concerns raised by Kiruna Stammell.

"As a result we are now introducing these changes to pin pads in the over 300 of our biggest branches in high streets and city centre. Pin pads are being adapted by introducing a flex which allows them to be removed from their holder.

"In addition as part of a wider modernisation programme we are making it easier to access services, through new improved low level counters in thousands of branches and also over 1,000 branches now have flexible pin pads."

Ms Stamell said she has been "overwhelmed by the positive feedback" from her story.


From Belfast Telegraph