When a loved one is developmentally disabled, you probably rely on some form of public transportation at one time or another to get them where they need to be. You may know of someone developmentally disabled, whether they live in their own apartment, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home, who relies on public transportation to get around each and every day. You expect that this would be a safe experience, especially since the service is tailored to the developmentally disabled. Sadly, you would be wrong. Increasingly, we are seeing stories exposing abuse, neglect, and even death caused by the very people you trust to get your loved one safely from point A to point B.
The state of New York is allowing the installation of security cameras and a GPS device in all state vans, cars, and buses which transport the developmentally disabled in Albany and the surrounding area. If the program goes well, officials plan to push to make this a statewide initiative. State commissioner of the NY Office of People With Developmental Disabilities Courtney Burke said this program will ensure the safety of any individual being transported by one of their vehicles, while protecting the driver against false reports of abuse, helping to resolve situations that might otherwise spiral out of control and end up ruining the life of a falsely accused employee.
For example, the GPS device can prove that a driver did not make a stop in a case where they are accused of pulling over and committing abuse. If the data is collected from the GPS device and it shows the driver continued from point A to point B without making an unscheduled stop, the case can be immediately thrown out. It negates the dreaded “he said-she said” argument by providing cold, hard GPS coordinate facts.
Currently, no one is considering placing cameras in state-run or privately owned group homes. Office of People With Developmental Disabilities spokesman Travis Proulx brings to light why: the federal government has laid out “very strict restrictions on use of cameras in homes, because that would essentially remove the privacy people are legally entitled to inside their homes.”
Michael Carey disagrees. Jonathan, his 13-year old autistic son, died in a transit van back in 2007 when a state worker attempting to restrain him instead smothered him. Carey calls the program “a tiny, superficial step.” He is working to push legislation calling for cameras in common areas of all developmentally disabled group homes, as well as every private or public transport vehicle, whether it is a bus, car, or van. “There’s an overwhelming strategy on the state’s part that they don’t want the evidence of abuse. They’re more concerned about lawsuits than the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable, disabled children and adults they are supposed to care for,” he adds.