Disabilities Nonprofit Sues Community Health Center for Excluding Patients with Physical Disabilities

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July 30, 2015; New York Times

In the Bronx, a suit has been filed against the Union Community Health Center by Bronx Independent Living Services for discriminating against people with physical disabilities.

According to that federal suit filed in the Southern District of New York, Union Community Health Center has often turned away people with disabilities seeking treatment at one of its sites and has failed to make the accommodations at that site that are required by federal, state, and city disability laws. In fact, according to the suit, the center is “riddled with physical access barriers.” The New York Times writes that the problems pointed out in the suit include, “doorways and hallways too narrow for wheelchairs; an on-site pharmacy reachable only by climbing stairs; and a lack of medical equipment such as height-adjustable examination tables. It also stated the center failed to provide sign-language interpreters for deaf patients and did not make written materials accessible for those who are visually impaired.”

Michelle Caiola of the New York office of Disability Rights Advocates, representing the plaintiffs, said that this is not the only local health facility with such problems but that it was particularly egregious, presenting “numerous barriers of every kind affecting individuals with mobility, vision and hearing disabilities.”

Union Community Health denied that it was out of compliance with laws under the ADA. “Union Community Health Center has a long standing history of serving the entire Bronx community including people with a wide variety of disabilities.” But Brett Eisenberg, the executive director of Bronx Independent Living, says that his group has been getting complaints about Union Community Health’s site on the Grand Concourse for five years, and that his group has tried repeatedly over that period to resolve the complaints with the Health Center—only in the past year turning to legal action.—Ruth McCambridge