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News for You

Mom Pushing for Doctor Office to be Wheelchair Accessible

November 13, 2013

Note: The online article includes a video with captions. (2:30 min.)

Maneuvering around in a wheelchair can be tricky. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) said all new construction after 1992 must follow accessibility standards. And if they were built before 1992 they still have to make adjustments.

A viewer said her chronically ill child had trouble getting into a doctor's office because it wasn't wheelchair accessible. And when the mom asked why not the doctor's office told her it didn't have to be.

Joseph has daily drop seizures. "Your brain just shuts off even for a split second. You lose muscle tone and you just drop," explained Joseph's mom, Susan Pietrosanto.

Pietrosanto holds him or she pushes him in his wheelchair. In August, he almost fell from the chair at a doctor's office, which is Novant Health practice.

"I had him like this. I was holding the door and I was going like this," said Pietrosanto, "It hit the threshold and stopped." It made her angry.

"I did say something but nothing happened," said Pietrosanto.

Until she called Disability Rights and Resources. "If they can help you they will," said Pietrosanto.

But the doctor's office, which is a tenant of the building, in October sent her a letter back. "That their building was built in 1985 and they didn't have to make any modifications," said Pietrosanto.

"Whoever wrote this letter is in error," said Julia Sain the executive director of Disability Rights and Resources, "There is no such thing as grandfathered. They put a ramp to Monticello."

The threshold in question is still not fixed yet but the health system said it is working with the building owner. "There was concern about access to our practices," said Jason Bernd, [Vice President] of Operations at Novant Health Medical Group, "So, that's something we take very seriously."

Bernd explained the sidewalk will become inclined and they will add an automatic door opener.

When WBTV asked when, he said, "Should be able to do that in a timely manner."

"Every minute that goes by the rights of their patients with disabilities have been violated," said Sain.

"I didn't take no for an answer because I knew I was right. I knew there was a problem," said Pietrosanto.

She's happy someone listened. "That's going to make it a lot easier not just for me but for anybody in a wheelchair," said Pietrosanto.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act almost all businesses must be wheelchair accessible.

Pietrosanto carries enough. She shouldn't have to carry the responsibility of forcing businesses to follow the law.

Novant Health said it is working on the problem. And of course we will follow up to let you know when that fix is in place. Novant Health said it will make accessibility a priority and realizes it could improve.

If you're concerned about accessibility in North Carolina contact the Disability Rights and Resources at

Copyright 2013 WBTV. All rights reserved.

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