Independent
Aberdeen Hazlet Holmdel Keyport Matawan - Middletown
September 6, 2007 

Equalizers, township come to terms over complaint
Advocacy group fights for access for disabled
BY DAN NEWMAN Staff Writer

MIDDLETOWN - Carolyn Schwebel says that since 1990, she has been an advocate of those with disabilities. But sometimes she feels as if it's been even longer than that.

There has been a list of accumulated frustrations and problems with being patronized and ignored for the most part," Schwebel said. "I thought that it was time to do something about it."

What she and Carmina Caivano- Stoney did was settle a complaint with Middletown concerning accessibility within the township. The complaint, filed three years ago, was based on the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The settlement enforces an earlier agreement from last year that Schwebel believes was "essentially ignored."

Schwebel and Stoney are members of The Equalizers, a local civil-rights advocacy group that fights to ensure that municipalities in the area include features that make facilities more accessible for the disabled.

Schwebel, who uses a walker and a wheelchair upon occasion, said that this latest settlement takes a load off her shoulders, but that she still will continue her push for everyone to have equal rights.

"I am cautiously optimistic about this decision, but I will continue to go forward to make sure that things get done," Schwebel said. "When this all started, I had to be stubborn and do something about the problems around me."

The decision adds penalties of $10,000 for each time stipulated deadlines are not met. Township officials must appoint an ADA coordinator, publish the settlement on their Web site, and write and implement an ADA Transition Plan to address the accessibility needs throughout the township for people with disabilities.

"I am pleased that after 17 years, there will be increased accessibility for everyone in Middletown, for the children and adults with disabilities, and the many dedicated veterans who are returning with serious injuries who will be better able to access and enjoy the facilities of their town," Schwebel said.