Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Positive Inaccessible Taxi-ing Situation Update

Back in late September I wrote a post on the EasyStand Blog called “An Inaccessible Taxi-ing Situation” that was about inaccessible taxicabs in New York City. Read the post for more details, but to quickly recap New York recently made a decision to change their fleet of cabs to the so-called “Taxi of Tomorrow” but the problem is that the Taxi of Tomorrow (a Nissan NV-200) is not wheelchair accessible, so countless people with disabilities who use wheelchairs cannot hail a cab in New York. Moreover, it will be the taxicab in service for the next ten years which makes it even more difficult for people who use wheelchairs to get around via taxicabs. Clearly, that is a big problem. Currently, only 231 out of 13,000 New York taxicabs are accessible, which is a horrible and unacceptable ratio for one of the biggest cities in the world.

More frustrating is that the decision about the new cabs was made with full knowledge that they were inaccessible and that some cheaper accessible options were available as well. Even worse than that were the very offensive remarks that New York Mayor Bloomberg directed at wheelchair users who have advocated for greater access to the city’s taxicabs. Most notably, he said it would be “too dangerous” for wheelchair users to try to hail a cab, that most taxi drivers would “pretend they didn’t see them,” that wheelchair users “sit too far from the driver to establish a dialogue” and therefore “they would not tip well.” He also suggested that the cabs will weigh too much, use too much gas, and that there is too much “dangerous” space between the backseat and the front of the cabs and that people were going to get hurt because of it. Yikes. Ridiculous.

As you could guess, this inaccessible taxi situation didn’t fly with the disability community and accordingly the United Spinal Association filed a disability discrimination lawsuit in federal court in New York in January 2011. As far as that goes, some good strides have been made recently to make those taxicabs more accessible. First, on December 20, 2011 Governor Cuomo and lawmakers reached a deal to approve a bill that calls for 6,000 new street-hail licenses to be issued to livery cabs in the outer New York City boroughs and upper Manhattan.  But Cuomo threatened to veto the bill unless the legislature addressed the low number of the city’s accessible taxi vehicles. The result is that there will now be 3,200 more accessible taxi vehicles on New York roads. The deal to improve the city’s overall accessibility was applauded by tens of thousands of New York veterans and people with disabilities.

Then about a week later,  in what was hailed as a landmark victory for the disability community, a federal judge ruled that New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act for failing to provide access to taxicabs for wheelchair users. The ruling states that until the TLC produces a comprehensive plan to provide meaningful access it can only issue new medallions to wheelchair accessible taxis. In his ruling U.S. District Judge Greg Daniels wrote, “Meaningful access for the disabled to public transportation services is not a utopian goal or political promise, it is a basic civil right.” Amen.

In in this fight that has lasted more than a decade Judge Daniel’s ruling was a very huge victory, but the war to get all of New York’s taxicabs wheelchair accessible rages on.

The article linked  in the paragraph above has a lot of good quotes about disability independence, etc. so be sure to give it a full read.


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