October 3, 1997
Monmouth County Medical Society
766 Shrewsbury Avenue
Tinton Falls, N. J. 07724
As we discussed on October 1, 1997, I am writing to express my
serious concerns about the lack of compliance by many physicians
with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which took effect five
Unfortunately, I have found that even physicians who are
lovely, caring people still neglect the legally-mandated safety
needs and civil rights of their patients with disabilities. Even
when I have discussed the issues and provided extensive
information, simple changes like the ramping of a single step or
the addition of a proper horizontal toilet grab bar, which costs
under $30, have not been done.
Since there has been extensive publicity in the media about
the ADA and its requirements, including my own enclosed articles,
physicians would have a hard time suggesting that they are
unaware of the law. Perhaps their attorneys are giving bad
The enclosed materials make it extremely clear that as public
accommodations medical care providers must provide equal access
to their services. Even if they are not renovating or doing new
construction, they are legally obligated to make reasonable
accommodations, including grab bars, parking spaces, or ramps in
place of one or a few steps.
I am surprised that physicians leave themselves so open to a
lawsuit if someone is hurt or brings a discrimination complaint.
Many of my doctors have a large portion of older patients, in
particular, who use assistive devices and could fall on steps or
low toilets with no grab bars.
Please share as much of the enclosed information as you can
with your members. The booklet, Medical Offices- Access Equals
Opportunity may be the best summary, especially starting with
page 12. It would be useful if your society could provide this
booklet to every doctor in the county.
One of my doctors has purchased an expensive, wonderful
examining table. Yet, unfortunately, the illegal step at the door
prevents many people with disabilities from entering
independently, and the very high table in another room, without
proper shallow step stool, and the lack of a bathroom grab bar
are dangerous for me.
I was discriminated against this week, when I appeared for a
consultation with a new doctor only to find that his office is
totally inaccessible. He declined my request that we use a
colleague's office. He said that he was not set up for the
"seriously handicapped." While I have a disability, I
am not "seriously handicapped," and it is his steep
stairway that creates the handicap. In addition, he legally does
need to treat those whom he views as "seriously
Apparently he was unaware of the requirement, described in the
above booklet, that as an accommodation doctors with inaccessible
offices should use a colleague's location or even meet at the
Tax breaks are available for accessibility work. Many
accessibility accommodations are inexpensive. The requirement is
for independent entry by people with disabilities, so carrying
them is neither legal or safe.
You might remind the members of attitudes and language, as
well. As the enclosed brochure explains, we prefer to be called
"people with disabilities," not "the handicapped,
"physically challenged," and certainly not
"crippled," which is equivalent to the
"N-word" for African-Americans. We use
wheelchairs, which provide freedom; we are not bound or
confined to them, and we have conditions instead of suffering
from or being afflicted by them.
I do appreciate the opportunity to provide you with this
information to pass on to your members. Since I am sending many
items, perhaps you could keep them in a reference file. Feel free
to print my letter, or to suggest that physicians contact me for
information. I would also be happy to attend a meeting. I welcome
feedback from you and the members of the Monmouth County Medical
Carolyn Schwebel, Ed.D.