(732) 291-4257

October 3, 1997

Attention Pat

Monmouth County Medical Society

766 Shrewsbury Avenue

Tinton Falls, N. J. 07724

Dear Pat,

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 years ago.

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 advice.

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 handicapped."

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 patient's home.

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 Society.


Carolyn Schwebel, Ed.D.

Co-chair and

School Psychologist