Monday, December 09, 2013

A Story Of Visual Impairment And Mental Blindness

Michael Sherman, NCCI Peer Counselor Coordinator, begins to tell the story.

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush



Some problems have arisen with recent changes with Medicaid client transportation services to medical appointments in the Clinton-Essex-Franklin region.  To address these and other issues an advocate for the disabled, Debra Buell, organized and moderated a meeting held Wednesday morning, December 4th, at the Clinton County Government Center. 

Attendees from the region included Medicaid clients, community service agency representatives, transport vendors, and local governmental officials.

The following is part of a series covering different aspects of that meeting.

*  *  *

Michael Sherman was expressive when detailing a complaint from a client about a bad Medicaid ride experience.

He got up and told the story, very animated, walking back and forth in the center of the conference room like a stand-up comedian working a crowd.  It was a way of getting a serious point across to the other attendees.

Michael works directly with consumers as a Peer Counselor Coordinator/ IL Specialist at North Country Center for Independence (NCCI).  He related the story of a visually impaired client ended up being booked with a volunteer driver for JCEO (Joint Council for Economic Opportunity).

The driver delivered the consumer to his medical appointment, leaving the consumer at the curb, telling him to find his way.

The consumer had to "tap-tap-tap" his way to the building, Michael said, recreating the sounds and motions of a someone using a cane.  The consumer ended up against a brick wall.

After the appointment, a nurse brought the consumer back outside to wait for the volunteer driver.  The nurse hadn't seen the car that had delivered the client so she didn't know what vehicle to look for.

A horn honked, continued Michael.  "Tap, tap, tap."  Wrong car, it wasn't the right driver.

Eventually the volunteer driver pulled up but he was annoyed with the visually impaired rider. The driver said: "Well, come on.  I've been waving at you from my car."

Michael Sherman demonstrates how a Medicaid driver was trying to attract the attention of a visually impaired rider.

There was some laughter in the room.

Michael pointed out that something was wrong with a driver who didn't notice during a long drive that the client was visually impaired, that waving at the client wouldn't work.

"I'm visually impaired, too," he said.  "I'm not going to see you waving inside your car through the window."

Such an incident as the one he had just related, observed Michael, could become a liability issue.

"JCEO should be waking up a little bit, they need to know the severity of a person's disability," he said.  "They need to know you just don't leave a visually impaired person at the curb."

Another complaint regarding JCEO volunteer drivers was the some of them wouldn't allow manual wheelchairs in their cars.

Regarding complaints against the drivers, Sally Soucia, JCEO Community Outreach Program Director, said she didn't know where the stories were coming from, that some of it had to be hearsay.

Sally explained that she grew up with blind grandparents and that her mother also had to use a wheelchair.  She was very aware of disability issues.

"As along as I've been [at JCEO] it's been our goal to provide the services people need to be self-reliant," she said.

"If something wrong, please tell us," Sally continued.  "We can't fix it if we don't know."

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