New Jersey Advocates Follow Up 'Sting' On Transit Woes
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 1, 2006
TRENTON, NEW JERSEY--Tired and angry at what they are calling routine instances of discrimination and harassment, three advocates with New Jersey Citizen Action have filed separate lawsuits against New Jersey Transit.
Paulette Eberle, 57, who is blind; Tyrone Lockett, 38, who has cerebral palsy and walks with two crutches; and Shonda Lewis, 35, who uses a wheelchair because of a spinal cord injury, filed suits Tuesday for unspecified punitive and compensatory damages, along with reimbursement of court and attorney costs.
"Our goal is to make it as expensive and embarrassing for NJ Transit for failing to take action to retrain drivers," said Bob Westreich, counsel for the group, which is supporting the passengers. "NJ Transit uses the right words and has the right policies. The problem is they do not take these incidents seriously."
Citizen Action conducted a "sting" in July, during which they photographed and recorded a number of incidents of "blatant disregard for the laws prohibiting discrimination and the regulations requiring specific steps to provide transit access for persons with disabilities," according to Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, the group's director.
"They are denying us our rightful place in society," Eberle said during a news conference. "We can't be active members in our community if we can't be sure we can get to events."
Eberle said that on July 6, one NJ Transit driver refused to allow her guide dog on the bus. The next five buses, operated by an NJ Transit subcontractor, passed by without stopping. The driver of a sixth bus also refused to allow the dog to board, she said.
Transit authorities responded with their own press statement, saying they take the complaints seriously, are starting their own investigation, and want to meet with the three complainants.
"Disabled sue NJ Transit, claim discrimination on buses and trains" (Associated Press via Newsday)