GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you have to go by scooter, Pat Carroll’s is a sweet ride.
It’s also essential to her ability to get around.
“I can’t stand up for long periods of time because I got a bad leg and I’ve had five back surgeries,” Carroll said of the Progress Mobility three-wheel scooter, complete with headlights, turn signals, fenders and a 45-mile battery range.
“It’s so handy. That’s what I tell everybody that asks me. They say, ‘Oh, I want one of those!'” Carroll told Target 8.
But the people in charge of the post office on Lake Drive in Grand Rapids’ Eastown neighborhood apparently aren’t fans of Carroll’s scooter. She contacted Target 8 after a recent trip to the post office turned frustrating.
Carroll said she has visited the station a number of times since she got her scooter over two years ago. But when she recently rode into the post office, she was told to park it someplace else.
“The girl at the front desk yelled out, ‘You can’t come in here with that.’ And I told her, ‘Yes, I can,'” Carroll said.
She said postal employees made her pull out of the line for service and wait for a manager.
“And he said, ‘If you want to come in here, you have to have documentation that this is a medical device.’ And I said, ‘No, that’s not necessary. Would you ask somebody in a wheel chair for that?’ And he said, ‘No,'” Carroll recounted.
Maybe the postal workers she talked to were mistaken or maybe they were just having a bad day. But if the U.S. Postal Service, an arm of the same government that brought you Americans With Disability Act, doesn’t follow the rules, Carroll wanted the problem exposed.
So Target 8 strapped a GoPro camera to the front of her scooter to find out if this was a one-time mistake or a pattern.
Carroll went back to the post office with a package she wanted to send to her daughter. It wasn’t long before she was met with the same hassle she had described before.
“You actually cannot without having documentation. You can’t have a motor scooter,” said the worker who pulled Carroll from the line.
“You’ll have to talk to my manager about this. I can assist you if you like, but you’ll have to pull off to the side,” the worker continued.
Not only did Carroll need to prove the scooter was a medical requirement, the clerk, who did take Carroll’s package to be mailed, expressed safety concerns.
“Like, if you were to, you know, I mean, hit a button and hit a customer,” postal worker said.
“Honey, I’ve been driving around Holland Home Assisted Living for two years and I’ve never hit a person yet,” answered Carroll.
She was told to park off to the side and wait for the manager. It wasn’t going to be a short wait.
“He can’t come out here right now,” said the worker.
“Why can’t he?” asked Carroll.
“He’s in the middle of something,” said the worker.
“Well, he’s in the middle of something, all right,” Carroll answered.
The situation just didn’t seem right, so Target 8 tried to talk to the manager Carroll was referred to. Everyone behind the counter at the station said they weren’t authorized to talk.
So Target 8 took Carroll’s concerns along with the video from her trip to Disability Advocates of Kent County.
“You don’t belong here… That’s the message I get,” said Marylu Dykstra, program director for DAKC.
The organization’s main objective is educating the public on the rights and abilities of disabled people and making sure their rights aren’t violated.
“What disturbs me more than anything else is the fact that they treated her quite rudely,” Dykstra said. “And they really discounted her needs. She was expressing her concern: ‘I need to talk to somebody . I would like you to understand where I’m coming from,’ which is basically the message she was trying to deliver.”
But what about the legality?
Federal agencies like the Postal Service are not bound by the Americans With Disabilities Act. The agencies do fall under 1968’s Architectural Barrier Act, requiring access for everybody to any building designed, built, altered or leased with federal funds, like postal facilities. The rules outlined in the ABA are the same for the ADA.
“From an accommodation perspective and treating somebody different with a disability differently, this then, as the law would state, is discriminatory,” said DAKC Executive Director Dave Bulkowksi.
While not addressing those specific concerns, the U.S. Postal Service sent 24 Hour News 8 a statement that in part defends workers’ actions for safety reason.
The statement touts the fact they helped Carroll mail her package after they refused to let her wait in line.
“This individualized service successfully made postal service accessible to this customer and avoided placing her and other customers at risk of injury,” reads the statement from Greater Michigan District Media/Customer Relations Coordinator Sabrina Todd.
She went on to write the Eastown station is in full compliance with the Architectural Barriers Act.
While there are fines and other penalties for the sort of experience Carroll had, DAKC would rather sit down with the Postal Service and try to fix the problem.
Carroll said she’s thinking of the next person with a disability that gets in line at that postal facility.
“I don’t want them to have to go through what I did. It was embarrassing to have him come out and yell at me in front of all these people,” Carroll said.