By Edwin Folven, 10/25/2012
Incident bolsters calls for new policies for people in wheelchairs
A woman in a wheelchair fell to her death on Oct. 16 while using the escalator at the Hollywood and Highland Red Line Station because the elevator was out of service. The death has bolstered concerns by disability rights advocates who claim not enough is being done to make it easy for people in wheelchairs to use public transportation.
The L.A. County Coroner’s Office has not yet publicly identified the victim, who had no family living in the area, according to Capt. John Kades, with the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. Media reports have identified her as Brenda Carter, and have indicated that she was between 60 and 64 years old. Kades said her exact name and age has not yet been confirmed. The incident is still under investigation by the coroner’s office, and an autopsy was scheduled yesterday.
Luis Inzunza, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), confirmed the elevator at the station was temporarily out of service. The woman fell at 11:55 a.m., and was taken by paramedics to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she died. Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said the victim was with a caregiver when she fell. Authorities have not publicly announced where the victim lived, and the incident is considered to be an accident.
Inzunza said Metro strives to repair broken elevators at subway stations as soon as possible, and that announcements are made over the trains’ public address systems indicating when they are out of service. He added that a report on the incident will be presented to the Metro Board today, and that policies and procedures will be evaluated.
“If something like that happens, the best thing to do is to get on another train and backtrack to another station where the elevators are in service,” Inzunza said. “I have never seen someone in a wheelchair try to go up an escalator. They are not made for wheelchairs.”
Scott Barron, a peer self-advocacy coordinator for Disability Rights California who uses a wheelchair, said he takes public transportation to and from work between Whittier and downtown Los Angeles. He said he is commonly faced with having to ride the subway to a different location and then taking a bus because elevators are out of service at subway stations.
“It happens probably once every two weeks,” Barron said. “I normally get on at Pershing Square, and if the elevator doesn’t work, I have to go to Union Station and get on a bus. I’d like them to service the elevators more frequently.”
Autumn Elliott, associate managing attorney for Disability Rights California, added that disabled individuals commonly complain to the organization about difficulties using public transportation. She said non-functional elevators are a problem, and there are also issues with difficulties using the wheelchair lift on buses. She said the policy of having people take the train to other stations is highly inconvenient for people who are disabled, and that the public address system announcements are often inaudible or difficult to understand.
“If the elevators are out of service, it really throws them for a loop,” Elliott said. “A lot of people don’t realize that if you are disabled and in a wheelchair, if the elevator is out of service, you have to go a long ways out of your way to get to a destination with a working elevator.”
Disability Rights California is a statewide advocacy organization that represents people with disabilities, and Elliott said she has no direct connection to the incident at the Hollywood & Highland Metro Station. She said, however, that the organization routinely advises Metro to make policy changes that will make it easier for disabled individuals to ride trains and buses.
“For the subway, they have got to make having working elevators more of a priority,” Elliott added. “They should have faster response times, or they should have two elevators.”