Knoxville disability coordinator files discrimination lawsuit

Knoxville disability coordinator files discrimination lawsuit

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Stephanie Cook has been in a wheelchair for 25 years. Stephanie Cook has been in a wheelchair for 25 years.
"According to the ADA rules that routine diagnostic equipment, mammography equipment must be able to serve ADA patients, which we do," Dr. Kamila Kozlowski said. "According to the ADA rules that routine diagnostic equipment, mammography equipment must be able to serve ADA patients, which we do," Dr. Kamila Kozlowski said.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A Knoxville breast center is being sued for allegedly denying services to a disabled woman. The plaintiff is the disability service coordinator for the city.

Stephanie Cook has been in a wheelchair for 25 years. She says she was denied an MRI at the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center (KCBC) because of her disability.

"I've just never had any one blatantly say we can't help you," said Cook, the disability service coordinator.

It began in June 2011 when Cook, who has a family history of breast cancer, found a suspicious lump. She went to KCBC for a consult.

"They told me to come back in six months for an MRI," Cook said. "I asked (the nurse) to make a note that I use a chair and I would probably need some help to get on the table."

Then last December she was told she could not have the MRI she needed. It is not handicap accessible.

Cook is suing the center under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"People with disabilities have ailments. People with disabilities have diagnosis or scares of diagnosis, and we need to have the same access to medical care as people without disability," she said.

The founder of KCBC said the center serves patients with disabilities every day, but their breast MRI machine does not have a lift.

"The way the machine is made, it's on a fixed height. It doesn't move up and down like other machines," Dr. Kamila Kozlowski said.

But Cook said that shouldn't be a problem.

"I've had X-rays, I've had MRIs. I know how my body works, I know how to educate someone on what they can do to transfer me on to a piece of equipment," she said.

Dr. Kozlowski said the center contacted the Department of Labor about the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act on their machine.

"According to the ADA rules that routine diagnostic equipment, mammography equipment must be able to serve ADA patients, which we do," Dr. Kozlowski said. "Those services, imaging services, that are not commonly used by majority of people fall under the safe harbor and do not fall under the ADA requirements."

They were told by the ADA that if service was not "readily achievable," they would need to provide alternative care.

"We made recommendations to have this particular person served elsewhere, which would be more convenient for her health without taking any risks to her health," Dr. Kozlowski said.

Cook said her gynecologist was the one who found her another doctor. Cook was able to have the MRI at a different location and found the lump was benign.

Cook said in her role as the ADA coordinator for the city, she is aware of her rights, but she hopes her lawsuit will ensure no one else under goes the same ordeal.

"I know my rights and I'm able to articulate that as well as how to help me, a person with a disability, get onto a piece of equipment," Cook said "And I still am denied that test or service? It really, really terrifies me for the people who may not know what their rights are or may not be able to articulate how to be help."

The 17-page lawsuit is asking the center to make all services they offer handicap accessible as well as compensatory damages for the plaintiff as a result of the alleged discrimination.

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