CLEVELAND – You probably never think of elevators if you don’t rely on them. People with disabilities in our region have problems. So much so that they sometimes sleep in their cars because of problematic elevators.
“I can’t believe this elevator is broken again,” said Eric Allen, 56, of Euclid, during a recent video he recorded. He lives in an apartment complex called Bluestone. “And I’m literally pushing that button,” he said in the video. “And you can see it’s stuck (on the 3rd floor).”
Allen lives on the fifth floor in a building with only one elevator. He once lived with his 83-year-old father-in-law Duwud Abdullah. When we visited last fall, Abdullah said to us, “Most of the time we have problems with it. That’s the problem.”
The older man spoke to us from his single bed. He told us he had had heart surgery, his feet were swelling, and he couldn’t get all of his doctors’ appointments.
“Can you go up and down the stairs?” we asked.
“Oh no,” said Abdullah.
When Allen was moving in, he told us that he didn’t know there was only one elevator that was broken for days or weeks at times.
More problems for people in poor health
Jessie Champion Simms, 65, of Cleveland, told us that she had similar problems at the Galloway Apartments in Shaker Square. “I would never have moved to the third floor if I had known this elevator was going to be down for a month,” said Champion Simms.
She told us that she has a bad knee.
“It was terrible! I had to grapple with that for a month. I told them I had to have an operation on my knee where I tore off half my knee! She said, showing a large scar on her right knee.
84-year-old woman in a wheelchair forced to sleep in the car
Meanwhile, Katie Williams, 84, from Cleveland, lives on the fifth floor of the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Property on Outhwaite Avenue. She said she knew how Allen and Champion Simms are feeling.
“What if the elevator doesn’t work?” we asked Williams.
“Well, then I have to stay inside. If I get caught, I have to stay downstairs,” she said while sitting in her electric wheelchair in front of the building.
Then she told us: “The last time I had to stay in my car for two nights.”
Disability organizations say this is “important”
“I am really glad that you are checking that out. That’s important, “said Kerstin Sjoberg, executive director of Disability Rights Ohio. “If we don’t take immediate action, take sensible action to fix an elevator, it would most likely be against federal law … and I would be very concerned if it did,” Sjoberg said.
The Ohio Department of Commerce is responsible for inspecting elevators twice a year. However, for now, owners don’t have to report back every time their elevators fail. So the inspection could take place on a Tuesday morning, and on Tuesday evening the elevator could be down for days and no one will be held accountable.
The Senator hears many of these complaints
“I think it’s bad that we still have to deal with this issue,” said State Senator Sandra Williams. It represents most of Cleveland and some of the suburbs. She told us that her office had received complaints about problematic elevators over the years and even got into disputes with various owners. “You have over 150 units in this one building. So you can’t pay $ 25,000 to fix an elevator? She said, remembering a previous conversation.
We showed Senator Williams a video of what the people we interviewed were saying.
“It hurts my heart to see people in this situation,” said the senator after seeing it.
Which then begs the question: Do property owners have to report when elevators are off?
“I think it would be great if we had a reporting system where tenants could call and say, ‘You know our elevators are down? ‘What are you going to do about it? “Said Williams.
Search for answers
In Bluestone, where Allen lives, the management company REM Commercial showed us a back room where the elevator controls are located. A representative said the company has so far replaced all of the relays, hydraulic system and starter.
We saw the elevator work that day. Management told us there are fewer problems now, but there are more plans to tackle the building’s only elevator by the end of this year. “We’ll definitely try to work with anyone upstairs if they need assistance,” said REM’s Gary Duvall. He also told us it was a difficult year financially because some residents had not paid rent because of the pandemic.
In the meantime, the management of the Galloway Apartments has opened. A week later we searched for answers only to find out that there is a brand new company managing the apartments. In a statement, the new company said in part, “We are working with a local elevator company to make sure we are compliant and that our residents have access. Our priority is our residents. “
We asked CMHA to speak to News 5 on camera about Williams problems. It said it would. It never did.
“I can’t come down stairs,” Williams said during our interview.
Cleveland also inspects elevators. We wanted to know the process and the problems that arise with elevators. We tried several times to speak to the city. We asked for answers email after email. Once again the city ignored our interview requests.
Those who help people with disabilities think a mandatory elevator failure reporting system is a powerful idea.
“It doesn’t seem like a challenge when there’s a database or some other place where they can just enter the information,” said Sjoberg of Disability Rights Ohio.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said REM’s Duvall. “I think some accountability is always good.”
Williams told us she hoped someone would be held accountable for the mishaps.
“We live here,” said Williams. “We have nowhere to go. Home is here! “
Do you have frequent breakdowns in the elevator? Email 5 on your investigator side: Investigato[email protected]. We will keep ourselves updated on these issues.