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Wheelchair Accessible Taxis Go Before NY Judge

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 10:48 AM

One of the approximately 200 wheelchair accessible cabs in the city. (photo by Kate Hinds/WNYC)

(New York, NY -- Kathleen Horan, WNYC) Attorneys for the disabled faced off against attorneys for the city in a court hearing on Tuesday over the lack of wheelchair-accessible cabs.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, as well as the Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District, argued that New York City is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, saying it runs a public transportation system -- yet only two percent of cabs in the city can accommodate people in wheelchairs.

Simi Linton of Manhattan was one of a dozen disabled New Yorkers attending the hearing. "I feel optimistic that the judge understood the depth and the reach of the kind of discrimination that disabled people face daily," she said.

The city contends it's not violating the law because it doesn't operate the cabs themselves, drivers do.

But Federal Judge George Daniels repeatedly challenged the city’s attorney, Robin Binder, about whether New York City is responsible to do more, and what it plans to do to provide “meaningful access” to disabled passengers. Daniels said: “If it is your legal obligation, there is no dispute you’re not meeting that obligation.”

The Taxi and Limousine Commission has said it’s currently developing a system where disabled riders can order a wheelchair- accessible cab from a dispatcher. It should be operational by next spring.

One of the plaintiffs, Christopher Noel, said that plan doesn't cut it. "The TLC is basically saying that we'll come up with a system eventually, and then we'll get to you, but for now we'll just pick up everyone else and then we'll get to everyone else," he said. "It hurt me when I heard their argument," he said.

Judge Daniels said he’ll rule on the case by Christmas.

Before he concluded the hearing, Daniels warned the city that if he determines the city has an obligation to do more for accessible passengers, then it will have to be armed with remedies immediately, not in the future

Plaintiffs in the case are asking that as taxis are retired over the next few years, all new cabs be accessible models. The Nissan NV 200, the model chosen by the city to be the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” has to be retrofitted to fit wheelchairs.

Industry opponents argue requiring 100 percent accessibility isn't feasible and is too expensive.

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Comments [3]

Frank

Access-A-Ride is an unresponsive and poorly run alternative to city buses and Ambulette Services are not alternatives to a taxi, Ambulettes are alternatives to AMBULANCES for patients who are sick or injured and need to get to doctors under non-emergency situations. When you are going out for a night on the town, or going to business meetings, do you call an Ambulance to get you around? New York City is already a city that even well into the 21st century continues to be highly inaccessible to the disabled, a problem that is highlighted by the fact that the NYC subway is completely wheelchair inaccessible, this is a problem that the city has chosen to ignore of its own free will. If NYC had let drivers chose whatever kind of car they wanted to use as a taxi the current plan of offering incentives to drivers who made their current minivans wheelchair accessible would have been fine. When NYC decided to mandate that ONLY the Nissan could be used as an NYC cab it willingly took on the responsibility to make a choice of vehicle that was accessible to ALL patrons. To those who oppose making NYC taxis wheelchair accessible, tell me, how would you get around NYC if you were prohibited from using the subway, taxis were not accessible to you in any reliable way (the dispatch service is a joke, everyone knows the drivers would never respond to calls and just pickup fares along the way)and the city was increasingly discouraging the use of private vehicles through ever higher tolls and taxes? I find it stunning how eagerly Michael Bloomberg's administration is championing hybrid and clean fuel taxis, yet how uninterested the Bloomberg administration is in making NYC more accessible people with disabilities. The fact is that the city was offered vehicles that were handicapped accessible from the factory (both a Turkish and an American company offer cost effective vehciles that are handicapped accessible from the factory) yet the Mayor chose otherwise. London taxi cabs have been 100% wheelchair accessible for years, and there is simply no reason in law or just basic common sense that NYC cabs should not also be accessible to all. Wheelchair accessibility is good for NYC , good for the taxi industry, good for NYC businesses, and just simply the right thing to do.

Apr. 02 2012 11:49 PM
TAXI DRIVER

This is not necesary and economically unsustainable due to the extremelly high cost of the vehicles. This addtional overhead can potentially destroy the taxi industry and become a burden (via higher costs) to the taxi driver instead of the taxi barons. The taxi industry already has extremelly high overhead costs of insurance, fuel, leases, licensing, and government regulations. Most of the riding public doesn’t take those issues into account, and they don’t really care. They just want a cheap ride close to nothing. The taxi industry is not sustainable at the prices the general public would like it to be. NOW FOR THOSE WITH DISABILITIES, THERE IS ALREADY A DEDICATED FLEET OF VEHICLES TO ACOMMODATE THERE TRANSPORTATION NEEDS CALLED ACCESS-A-RIDE AND OTHER AMBULETTE STYLE SERVICES. Some agendas will push this issue at all costs, even though it makes no common sense for the greater good of the industry, and again a potential additional burden to taxi driver, even though there are already existing alternatives that have been mentioned above.

Dec. 17 2011 12:10 PM
Brittany

I started a petition to mandate wheelchair accessible taxis in New York State. Please join me in my mission. Thank you!

http://www.change.org/petitions/ask-new-york-state-to-mandate-and-subsidize-wheelchair-accessible-taxicabs

Nov. 29 2011 09:23 AM

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