The Americans with Disabilities Act has been around since 1990, but its mandates have not been enforced everywhere, leading to a growing medically underserved population in the city. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
Visiting the doctor's office can be a nuisance for most, but for some women, getting accessible medical care has truly been a journey.
"This woman in a white coat comes down the hall, her arms flailing around waving, and looks at me, and she says, 'No, no, no. People like you can't come here,'" says Marilyn Saviola, who heads up women's advocacy for Independence Care Systems. "And I said, 'Where should I go?' and she said, 'Where people like you go.'"
Saviola says that's just the problem: there are very few places for wheelchair-bound women to get comprehensive gynecology services.
"I couldn't even come in the room. I had to leave my chair outside the door," says patient Manyon Lyons. "I went to another place. I could actually get in, but I couldn't get on the table."
The process was so frustrating for Manyon Lyons that in the past, she would wait up to five years before attempting a trek to the doctor's office, a dangerously long time for a woman with disabilities.
"We have a lot of incontinent issues that requires a GYN often, because you need medicine for that and you have skin breakdown and rashes," Lyons says.
Now, Lyons travels from Harlem to the Bronx to one of the few places that caters to her needs. Since 2011, HHC's Morrisania Diagnostic and Treatment Center has been working with ICS to make its facility more accessible.
"Some of the changes we did was get exam tables that can move up and down and use some Hoyer lifts to actually lift the patients," says Dinah Surh, senior executive administrator at the Morrisania Diagnostic and Treatment Center.
The clinic also had to renovate its mammography room to make it more accessible. They re-positioned the mammography machine, got maneuverable chairs, and also just made the room wider so that those in wheelchairs could get around a little easier.
"It didn't cost us that much," Surh says. "It cost us maybe less than $20,000."
As a result, the City Council allocated $5 million to HHC to build exam rooms for disabled women in all of its facilities.
However, New York Lawyers for Public Interest says it's not enough. They say private hospitals need to step up, too.
"There have been laws on the books for over 20 years that mandate accessibility for people with disabilities, and it's just not happening, and we think it's because there's such a lack of awareness among providers," says Mindy Friedman, staff attorney with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.