Beth Israel, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt, and New York Eye and Ear Infirmary Provide Substandard Care to New Yorkers with Disabilities

New York, NY – July 24, 2013 – A federal class action lawsuit filed today in the Southern District of New York alleges that Beth Israel Medical Center, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, discriminate against patients with disabilities.  The lawsuit, which is being brought by United Spinal, Inc. and five disabled individuals, who between them have mobility, vision and hearing impairments, details how pervasive architectural barriers, ineffective policies and procedures, and inaccessible medical equipment lead to substandard healthcare that jeopardizes patients’ health.  The plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Advocates, a non-profit legal center which has successfully pursued similar cases against hospital chains in California and Massachusetts.

In addition to widespread architectural barriers that exist at each of these New York medical institutions, the disabled patients allege that the hospitals fail to maintain comprehensive policies to address their needs, which can have serious consequences for their health. They allege the hospitals lack effective policies for lifting and transferring wheelchair users to examination tables, or for providing healthcare information to blind patients that they can read and understand, or for ensuring that sign language interpreters are provided for deaf patients or captioning for the hard of hearing.

Although July 26, 2013 is the twenty-third anniversary of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, medical providers continue to lag far behind in providing equal services and patient care for people with disabilities.  Entrenched attitudes and institutional biases about disability pervade the medical profession and interfere with the ability of people with disabilities to stay healthy and remain independent.  A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that only 9% of the health care facilities surveyed reported using height-adjustable exam tables or lifts for transferring patients.

An inadequate supply of accessible medical diagnostic equipment also causes serious problems.  Patients with disabilities are placed at a higher risk for delayed diagnoses because they are not receiving the same screening and preventative tests as others.

Beth Israel, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt and New York Eye and Ear Infirmary are operated by Continuum Health Partners, Inc.  On July 16, 2013 Continuum and Mount Sinai Medical Center voted to approve a merger into a combined entity to be called the Mount Sinai Health System.  It will be the largest healthcare network in New York.

Jim Weisman, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of United Spinal, explained: “Equal access to quality healthcare is a top priority for our organization.  It enables our members to live active, productive and independent lives.”

Plaintiff Milagros Franco who has cerebral palsy and uses a power wheelchair said: “I was in tremendous pain when I sought emergency care at Beth Israel.  I struggled to get past multiple obstacles and barriers at the hospital just to reach the intake area and waiting room.  Once I was there, no one knew how to use the x-ray machine on a patient using wheelchair.”

Plaintiff Luda Demikhovskaya who relies on a power wheelchair said: “At New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, they never examine me with standard optometry equipment. I fear that the manual tests doctors provide will miss something.  I don’t think I am getting the same quality of care as others.”

Julia Pinover, Disability Rights Advocates said: “With an operating budget of close to $3 billion annually, Continuum’s hospitals have to do a better job of accommodating their patients with disabilities to ensure they are not receiving inferior care.”

Disability Rights Advocates is a non-profit legal center with offices in New York and California.  DRA has won several significant victories for disabled citizens in recent years including a court order compelling the New York Board of Elections to remove access barriers at its voter poll-sites.  DRA is also challenging the inadequacy of New York City’s disaster plans for disabled residents and NYC’s Taxi of Tomorrow, a taxi that is not wheelchair accessible.


Julia Pinover, Disability Rights Advocates, 212-644-8644,

Kevin Knestrick, Disability Rights Advocates, 510-665-8644,