Driving Toward Wheelchair Accessibility in NYC
New York City is one of the world’s great cities. The “city that never sleeps” has fantastic food and nightlife, great sports teams (unless you’re from Boston), and a public transit system that’s among the best in the world. Supplementing New York’s subway and bus lines are its approximately 13,000 iconic yellow taxis. Neither the subway nor the taxis, though, are easily wheelchair
accessible. Indeed, at the end of December 2011, a federal judge ruled that the New York City taxi system violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, as less than 2 percent of the fleet is wheelchair accessible.
Fortunately, it appears that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was ahead of the game: Two days before the court decision was announced, Gov. Cuomo signed legislation putting an additional 2,000 medallions, which allow taxis to pick up fares from
the street, up for auction in New York City. At the governor’s insistence, though, these medallions come with the stipulation that all 2,000 new taxis be wheelchair-accessible. Many of these medallions will not be available until New York City can come up with a long-term plan to increase the number of wheelchair-accessible cabs.
In talking about the necessity of access to transportation for people with disabilities, an issue of great importance to the disability community, I could not agree more with Judge George Daniels, who wrote in the December 2011 decision:
Meaningful access for the disabled to public transportation services is not a utopian goal or political promise, it is a basic civil right.