Group advocating for people with disabilities files against CATS

by: Holly Maynard Updated:


A group that advocates for people with disabilities in Monroe County has filed a formal complaint with the federal government, saying Charlotte's transportation authority is lacking in the quality of service it provides for them.

Elaine Elston uses a wheelchair to get around. So when she needs to go somewhere, she often calls to book a "Special Transportation Services" bus. However, she doesn't like to.

"When you get treated like a child, it makes you angry," she said.

Elston and several others say there's a lack of respect among the drivers. One reason: she says it's mandatory for them to give people with disabilities assistance with things like buckling their seat belts even if they don't need it.

"There's some things that you can do yourself. And the more that we can do, the more we do feel independent and in charge of our own lives," Elston said.

That's just one of several issues mentioned in a formal complaint filed by a council representing people with disabilities in Mecklenburg County. The complaint was filed Wednesday. It's against the paratransit system in Mecklenburg County, which complements CATS.

Teri Saltzman is blind. She told Channel 9 about another issue several people have complained about. It involves how to book their buses. 

"I was told when I would call that I had to call five days in advance. The law is that you have to be able to call the day before," she said.

The complaint also alleges that many riders are left waiting one to two hours after their scheduled pick up time.

"It's always sad when we have to take it to the enforcement agencies," said Julia Sain, from Disability Rights and Resources, Fighting For Justice and Advancing Independence.

She said the transit system also promises certain riders further out in the county that they can be picked up, but they actually don't have the resources to do so.

"It breaks my heart for the folks who think that they're just waiting and waiting and waiting for a ride to the doctor or somewhere and they're never going to get it," she said.

Sain said the agency has tried to formally work things out with the city since February 2011 but not much has changed.

Eyewitness News contacted CATS about the complaint.

It responded with a statement that read, "The Charlotte Area Transit System has just received a copy of the complaint and we are prepared to assist the federal agencies that review these complaints."

The Federal Transit Administration did receive its copy of the complaint on Wednesday. It’s up to the agency to decide if there should be any changes. There's no word yet on how long that could take.