Monday, February 4, 2008

Does the frustration never end? Access-a-Ride, NYC’s paratransit system is, in most cases, my only way to get to appointments, the ALS clinic, my support groups, or even that outing to meet up with friends. I am attaching a letter which I am prepared to fax to them if my friend’s phone call doesn’t fix the snafu. But, it isn’t enough to deal with an illness and disability; these ineptitudes are doubly frustrating

I have also posted this on the yahoo group DNNYC [Disabled Network of NYC] which runs the disabled activist group DIA [Disabled in Action]. And if that doesn’t work I will contact my city councilwoman.

I think everybody who reads this will understand why I am having high blood pressure, It’s also hard when you can’t speak fior yourself and have to count on a friend who has a busy enough day without having to speak for me.

To: Access-a-Ride eligibility unit

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Dear Sir or Madame,

I am writing to you as a wheelchair-bound Access-a-Ride member who has just been denied transportation to a very important appointment tomorrow. Since I have no other alternative way to get to Manhattan, I had to cancel this very essential weekly therapy session.

In late November, I received a letter from you that my eligibility would expire on December 31, and despite a confirmable diagnosis of a debilitating progressive neuromuscular disease [ALS], would have to be reassessed at an MTA medical facility. I called to get an appointment immediately and was told that I would receive an appointment in the mail. When I received nothing by early December, I called and your office apologized and said I would get a letter in one week. 10 days later, I called because I had received nothing. I was again apologized to, and promised an appointment again. I finally received a letter toward the end of December with an appointment for January 25 at Woodhaven Medical Associates, which I could only reach by Access-a-Ride van. I was assured that my eligibility would remain active until my assessment.

On January 25th, in bitterly cold weather, I arrived with my PCA for my scheduled appointment at 2:10pm. Following the instructions on the letter, I allowed 90 minutes for the visit; my return pickup was at 4:52. When we checked in at the medical office, my PCA was told that I would have to plan to be there for four hours, as they were backed up for more than three hours. My PCA told the receptionist that I had no transportation home if I waited all that time, so she was told we could reschedule. Please note that waiting at bus stops would have been dangerous for me in such bitter cold. My PCA then called your office and was told that we would receive another appointment in a week, which I still haven’t received. She was also assured that my eligibility would continue until my assessment.

We booked a trip for my therapy on Wednesday, January 30, with no problem. But when we called a while ago to book my transport for tomorrow, my PCA was told that there is a problem with my eligibility.

Please see to it that my eligibility is restored and that I get a new appointment. I am totally wheelchair-bound and need a lift. I go into Manhattan several times a month for important appointments, and have no other alternatives


Fern Cohen

update: Sunday night, I posted this letter to the DNNYC [Disabled Network of NYC] and I immediately got a response from Michael Harris, who heads up the Disabled Riders Coalition. He forwarded my letter to the head of the MTA and the Director of Access-a-Ride. My phone rang at 9:00 am on Monday morning that I am extended until the end of March. In the meantime I had asked a friend [Louise] to call, before I even emailed DNNYC. She called this morning, and they told her that I have an appointment to go back for a reassessment on Friday. February 15, at 3:20pm. This time, I am going to leave a 3-hour window and if I get out earlier, my aide and I can have a meal at the pub we found the last time we were there. When Louise called the Woodhaven Medical Associates to ask them for a realistic turnaround time, they insisted that we left before the van came, and went home on our own [by what means, I would like to know – We were at the pub eating]. And, they told her that if we had stayed, they would have gotten us in [why didn’t they tell me that before we walked out?]

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