Disabled Fort Worth officer fights for equal access

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by CHRIS HAWES

WFAA

Posted on May 4, 2011 at 10:37 PM

Updated Thursday, May 5 at 11:49 AM

FORT WORTH — A Fort Worth police officer serves the city from her motorized wheelchair.

Lisa Ramsey was shot in the line of duty, but after years of upholding the law as an officer, she is also enforcing another law — as an advocate for the disabled.

Officer Ramsey almost died eight years ago. She was shot in the line of duty while working undercover, chasing a drug suspect.

Her injuries left her paralyzed below the waist. Ramsey thought she would quickly master life in a wheelchair.

“Wow, I was in for a rude awakening,” she said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures equal access to the disabled. Businesses are supposed to make the improvements when they remodel, or reasonably have the resources.

But as Ramsey found, that does not always happen.

“I spend all day thinking about how to get in and out of places,” she said.

For four years, Officer Ramsey focused on raising her daughter and returning to work at the Fort Worth Police Department, where she now works with new recruits.

Then, in 2007, she said her service dog was denied access to a doctor's office.

“I explained to them it was a service dog, and they said they didn't care what it was, I couldn't have that dog in there,” Ramsey recalled.

That's when she found her second calling as an advocate for the physically challenged.

Ramsey filed an ADA suit against the doctor's office.

“He said, 'What do you want?' And I said, 'More education for your employees.”

The suit was quickly settled, and corrections were made.

Ramsey has filed suit against a half dozen other Dallas-Fort Worth businesses since then, contending they are not properly accessible to their physically-challenged customers.

Each of the lawsuits was settled, often after the businesses agreed to structural improvements like wheelchair ramps and better handicapped parking.

Ramsey said she does not keep any money from the settlements. Instead, she donates it all — other than attorneys fees —  to a charity that trains service dogs. She said those donations generally range between $100 and $1,000.

“I'm doing it because I just want a normal life," Ramsey said. "I just want to be able to go in and out of any business I want to, just like an able-bodied person can.”

And Officer Lisa Ramsey wants to ensure that everyone else has the same opportunity.

E-mail chawes@wfaa.com

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