Woman fights for wheelchair ramp at Shelbyville post office
Woman fights USPS for wheelchair access
SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Shellie Ellison just got a big win in the United States Court of Appeals in her fight to get a wheelchair ramp at the post office in downtown Shelbyville.
Ellison has used a wheelchair since high school. In 2015, she got a P.O. Box at the post office because she started a non-profit called Wheels On The Ground. It raises awareness and advocates for people with disabilities.
The entire time Ellison has had the P.O. Box, she hasn’t been able to go inside herself to use it.
I-Team 8 asked Ellison what goes through her mind when she stares down the stairs leading up to the post office entrance. She said, “That’s like a giant mountain trying to climb.”
Ellison filed a complaint to get a ramp put in front so she could go inside, but the post office said they couldn’t.
Instead, they told Ellison to use the ramp in the back and to press a button for someone to come and help her. “Being told ‘Hey, come up here to this little platform, sit out in the weather, and you can’t come inside,’ talk about making yourself feel like a 2nd class citizen. Like, you’re not welcome where everybody else is,” Ellison said.
Ellison shared with I-Team 8 another issue that came with being told to use the back ramp. She said, “That ramp has been blocked by like U.P.S. trucks and other things. So, it’s still just not user-friendly even with what they’ve done.”
Ellis eventually filed a lawsuit to get the postal service to put in a ramp. The first judge sided with the postal service because they said Ellison could use their online services, or go to other post offices outside of Shelbyville to get everything she needed.
Not satisfied, Ellison appealed the decision. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled overwhelmingly in her favor.
In the ruling, one of the judges wrote this.
It’s 2023, for heaven’s sake. The Rehabilitation Act was enacted 49 years ago. The Americans with disabilities act was enacted more than 30 years ago. One would be hard pressed to find any institution other than the postal service that would even dare make the arguments the defense has made in this case.
In 2023, the refusal to make a post office wheelchair-accessible should be deemed “discrimination” under the rehabilitation act without further ado.
Ellison said that reading the ruling helps her feel her situation is understood. “It’s like they at least understand that, ‘Yeah, you’re not providing meaningful access with what you’ve offered.’ I’m only asking for a ramp. Just put a ramp in, you know?”
I-Team 8 asked if this could be an example of how one person could change the world. Ellison says she didn’t even think about that. “I just want to be treated like everybody else,” she said.
Ellison says her lawyer will be meeting with the attorneys for the United States Postal Service with the first judge who ruled on this case to find out if the postal service will finally put in a ramp or if the fight will have to continue.