“Frequently Asked Questions about Filing an ADA [Americans with Disabilities] Complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice” http://www.ada.gov/fact_on_complaint.htm
Courtesy of Peter Berg, Project Coordinator of Technical Assistance, Great Lakes ADA Center, University of Illinois/Chicago
(800) 949-4232 (V/TTY)–(312) 413-1407 (V/TTY)–(312) 413-1856 (Fax)–www.adagreatlakes.org
——————————————————————————————-U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section
OMB No. 1190-0009
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Discrimination Complaint Form
Instructions: Please fill out this form completely, in black ink or type. Sign and return to the address on page 3.
Complainant: Anne C Woodlen
City, State and Zip Code: Syracuse, New York 13210
Telephone: Home: XXX
Person Discriminated Against:
(if other than the complainant)
City, State, and Zip Code:
Government, or organization, or institution which you believe has discriminated:
Name: Psychological HealthCare
Address: 3300 James Street
State and Zip Code: New York 13206
Telephone Number: (315) 422-0300
When did the discrimination occur? Date: Beginning November 2011 and ongoing
Describe the acts of discrimination providing the name(s) where possible of the individuals who discriminated (use space on page 3 if necessary):
Psychological HealthCare is a private corporation that accepts Medicare and Medicaid funds to provide counseling services to the general public. I use an electric wheelchair and have been receiving services since about November 2011 at their location at 600 E. Genesee Street, Syracuse NY 13202. This complaint is specific to that location, although in my single visit to the home office at 3300 James Street I also encountered accessibility problems.
First, the basement level of the building has a wheelchair ramp and a press plate on the door. The press plate is, literally, on the door. In order to use it, I have to wheel within arm’s reach then, when I press the plate, I have to scramble to get out of the way so the door won’t hit me. If I back away then I am at risk of falling off the curb, which I can’t see. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requires clear space around the door. There is none because I’m in it.
In my eight years of using a wheelchair, I have never seen any other press plate that is on the door instead of some small distance away, usually on a concrete post. Clearly, the installation was planned and executed by able-bodied people without consultation with any disabled person. Psychological HealthCare does not own the building.
Second, Psychological HealthCare offices are located on the second floor. There is a single solid door for entry and no press plate, window or doorbell to facilitate access. I have to sit in the hallway until someone comes along to open the door.
Third, in the waiting room there is no place for a person in a wheelchair to sit. The area is packed solid with chairs for able people without any regard for disabled people.
Last week a six-foot tall, man-ish woman left her mother in a manual wheelchair in the middle of the waiting area, thus blocking my access to the sign-in desk. The ensuing situation ended with the woman calling me a “bitch.” I am being verbally attacked because Psychological HealthCare, instead of accommodating people in wheelchairs, has left us to fight it out amongst ourselves.
Fourth, as a corporate entity, Psychological HealthCare doesn’t give a damn whether people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to access their services. Office staff workers are ignorant of the issues, therapists are insensitive, and corporate managing partners ignore the problems. The message is clear: people with mobility assistive devices are unwelcome, in the way, and a bother.
When I am in the waiting room, I have frequently seen people using walkers. One man has a severely crooked spine. He comes out from his appointment pushing a walker in front of himself, then he has to lean forward over the front of the walker and try to push the door open. His therapist walks away and offers no assistance.
In the first months that I went to Psychological HealthCare, several times I went to the reception window and asked to speak to someone about the accessibility problems. The person at the window would look blank, mumble and look at others for an answer. There are always four or five people in the office area behind the receptionist; none of them know what to do about access issues or to whom they should refer me.
Virtually every appointment I have with therapist Dr. Katherine Lewis begins with expressions of distress on my part about the trouble I’ve had getting to her office. She has taken it upon herself to move out a chair in the waiting room to make room for me, however, last week someone came after her and re-moved the furniture. Dr. Lewis says she has spoken to her supervisor, Dr. Ronald Fish, however it has not resulted in any changes to benefit people with wheelchairs or walkers, e.g., a five-foot empty space under a sign that says “Reserved for people in wheelchairs.” (N.B. It is not reserved for wheelchairs; it is reserved for people.)
Psychological HealthCare has moved staff and equipment out of the 600 E. Genesee St. location to accommodate corporate needs. They also have remodeled the waiting room to better serve women with children. They have the capacity for change; they have made no changes to improve services to people with mobility disabilities.
On January 24, I met with Dr. Ronald Fish, one of the managing partners. In addition to talking about clinical issues, I reported the access problems. I also offered to participate in sensitivity training. In the two months that have elapsed, no changes have been made to improve access, or to facilitate disability training. Additionally, Dr. Fish has not followed up with me by phone, email, land mail, Facebook, carrier pigeon or any other means. He has sent a clear message that he will not enter into a dialogue about disability issues.
I have gone to Psychological HealthCare for the treatment of depression. Depression is caused by the perception of powerlessness. I am powerless to change Psychological HealthCare, therefore it is causing the depression for which I seek treatment. I am condemned either to stay home with untreated depression or to go to Psychological HealthCare and have the depression increased.
I would like to know how many people with mobility assistive devices receive treatment at Psychological HealthCare and what percentage of those people are diagnosed with depression.
After going to Psychological HealthCare every three or four days for five months, I no longer can tolerate the risk of injury, being left outside the door as if I am of no value, and having it regularly made clear to me that I am in the way. I am a person, albeit a person who is disabled; I require that I be treated with respect, and accommodated with safety and courtesy.
Psychological HealthCare accepts Medicare and Medicaid money to provide treatment but they will not provide safe or comfortable access to the treatment area.
Have efforts been made to resolve this complaint through the internal grievance procedure of the government, organization, or institution?
If yes: what is the status of the grievance?
No changes have been made and there has been no follow-up in the past two months.
Has the complaint been filed with another bureau of the Department of Justice or any other Federal, State, or local civil rights agency or court?
Agency or Court:
City, State, and Zip Code:
Do you intend to file with another agency or court?
I don’t know of any other agency or court where I can file.
Agency or Court:
City, State and Zip Code:
Telephone Number: Additional space for answers:
Signature: __Anne C Woodlen
Date: __March 27, 2012_____
Return to: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Disability Rights – NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530