How to Complain: U.S. Dept. of Justice

“Frequently Asked Questions about Filing an ADA [Americans with Disabilities] Complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice”

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)–

——————————————————————————————-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
Address: XXX
City, State and Zip Code: Syracuse, New York 13210
Telephone: Home: XXX

Business: N/A

Person Discriminated Against:
(if other than the complainant)
City, State, and Zip Code:
Telephone: Home:


Government, or organization, or institution which you believe has discriminated:

Name: Psychological HealthCare
Address: 3300 James Street
County: Onondaga
City: Syracuse
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?

Yes___X___ No______

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?

Yes______ No___X___

If yes:

Agency or Court:
Contact Person:
City, State, and Zip Code:
Telephone Number:
Date Filed:
Do you intend to file with another agency or court?

Yes______ No______

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


About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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4 Responses to How to Complain: U.S. Dept. of Justice

  1. try complaining to JCAHO…they will tke your complaint and then refuse to investigate any individual case…so virtually every hospital with a psych unit comes off smeling like roses, no matter how abusive. trust me, i know!

    • annecwoodlen says:

      JCAHO is only applicable if your hospital is accredited by them. There are several other accrediting agencies; make sure you’ve got the right one.

      In New York State, psych units within general hospitals come under the NYS Office of Mental Health, not the Dept. of Health. Again, make sure that you’re filing your complaints with the right agency. Try filing the complaint with the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights. You are being discriminated against on the basis of disability, i.e., mental illness. If your diagnosis was cardiac or cancer, you would not be treated the way you are.

  2. Angelica says:

    I’m no longer positive where you are getting your info, but good topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for great information I was looking for this info for my mission.

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