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Santos: Inaccessibility of some lodgings pains some interisland referral patients

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Sen. Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) has asked the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. to consider the accessibility of certain properties and guest rooms when lodging accommodations are provided for interisland medical referral patients with disabilities.

Santos told Saipan Tribune Tuesday that interisland medical referral patients have raised concerns about certain lodging areas’ limited space for wheelchairs and other accessibility requirements of the American with Disabilities Act. This makes it very difficult for patients to be placed or situated in those facilities, she said.

The senator recently asked CHCC chief executive officer Esther L. Muña to look into the issue after learning that some interisland medical referral patients with disabilities have complained how difficult it was to move about in certain lodging areas from a physical infrastructure standpoint. Santos said these patients require accommodations that comply with the ADA.

She said the ADA states that people with disabilities are entitled to “the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations” that a public accommodation provides to its customers.

“In other words, every type of good or service a business provides to customers is covered by the ADA,” said the senator, adding that all businesses that serve the public must provide equal opportunities for customers with disabilities.

Santos said that ensuring that lodgings for patients with disabilities to provide special assistive parking lot accommodations, an accessible check-in counter, to wheelchair-accessible public entrances, pathways, ramps and/or lifts and restrooms, is necessary so that they are given equal opportunity.

This, she pointed out, will also confirm that the lodging facilities are compliant with both local and public laws as well as federal mandates such as the ADA.

Equally important, Santos said, is outfitting special assistance room types with the correct equipment, placement of fixtures, and dimensions that provide accessibility.

“A core concept in determining if a building is accessible or not is the path a person travels in getting from the parking area or sidewalk into the building, to the areas where he or she works or is served as a customer, and to the rooms, restrooms and other amenities that are provided in the facility,” she said.

Santos commended Muña and her team for “making huge strides in improving the interisland medical referral program” and thanked them for providing lodgings to patients.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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