StoryCorps 410: Standing with a Giant

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

In his early 20s, Max Starkloff was in a near fatal car accident, which left him quadriplegic and living in a nursing home. One day he came across a young woman who worked there, named Colleen. At StoryCorps in St. Louis, Colleen Kelly Starkloff sat down with her daughter, Meaghan Starkloff Breitenstein, to remember him.


Transportation Nation

Wait Until Next Year: Bill to Increase Accessible Cabs in D.C. On Hold

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Only 20 of D.C.'s 7,000 cabs are wheelchair-accessible. And that number won't be increasing in 2014.
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Transportation Nation

Strike Could Halt D.C.'s Paratransit Service

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


MetroAccess may be on the verge of its first strike, potentially stranding the hundreds of disabled residents who rely on the service for their daily appointments.

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New Jersey News

Raising Up Homes Could Put Them Out Of Reach

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


As part of Sandy rebuilding efforts along the Jersey Shore, many people are elevating their damaged homes to lift them out of reach from future floods, either because their insurance requires it or because it would make them feel safer.  But lifting homes presents unique problems for elderly or disabled residents who call the shore home.



Officals Testify No Specific Disaster Plans for Disabled

Monday, March 18, 2013

A federal trial is continuing in the case of disabled New Yorkers, who say the city needs a protocol for evacuating them during disasters, such as Sandy.

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City: Planning for Disasters Not Just Government Responsibility

Monday, March 11, 2013

The city is arguing that disabled individuals have a responsibility to plan wisely for disasters and it's not just up to government to keep them safe. City lawyer Martha Calhoun made that argument at the start of a trial on whether disabled people are needlessly suffering during disasters because the city fails to account for their special needs.

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City's Treatment of Disabled During Disasters to be Scrutinized During Trial in Class Action Lawsuit

Monday, March 11, 2013

Opening arguments begin today in a federal trial that is expected to shine a spotlight on how disabled New Yorkers fared during recent disasters such as Hurricane Irene and Sandy. The trial stems from a class action lawsuit filed in September of 2011 by the group, Disability Rights Advocates.  The group alleges the city's 900,000 disabled people are largely left out of disaster preparedness plans.

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State Registries Saved Lives During Sandy, But Not in NYC

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a registry that would allow disaster responders to know where to find people most urgently in need of aid. But he does not appear to have followed through.

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Transportation Nation

When 233 Isn't Enough: Disabled Riders Say NYC Needs More Accessible Cabs

Monday, October 22, 2012

There are only 233 taxis with ramps in NYC. (photo by Jim O'Grady)

(Alec Hamilton -- New York, NY, WNYC) One month after the city launched a program to let disabled passengers use cellphones to hail a taxi, some riders say there aren't enough available cabs.

The Accessible Dispatch program allows riders to use phone, text or app to summon one of the city's wheelchair-accessible taxis. There are over 13,000 yellow cabs in New York City, but only 233 of them have ramps.

Anne Davis is on the board of the Center for Independence of the Disabled. She said when demand is low the service is pretty good, but as the day progresses delays tend to grow. "Sometimes you can get a taxi within minutes," she said, "(but) one of my friends waited two and a half hours in the rain. The major problem with the system is that there aren't enough taxis."

According to the program's website, "if the closest available taxi does not accept the job within 120 seconds, the job request automatically jumps to the next closest available cab — and so on, until the job is accepted by a driver."

NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission chairman David Yassky said an effort to put another 2,000 accessible cabs on the streets is currently held up in court as part of the five-borough taxi plan. But he said service has improved.

"We're getting somebody a wheelchair accessible taxi in average of about 20-25 minutes," said Yassky. "We've never done that before. That's really good."

The system is operated by Connecticut-based Metro Taxi and uses GPS to locate and dispatch the nearest accessible cab. Rides must originate in Manhattan.


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The Takeaway

Oscar Pistorius Makes Big Strides for Disabled Athletes

Monday, August 06, 2012

Paralympian John Register reacts to Oscar Pistorius's performance and what it means for disabled athletes and for the future of the Paralympics.

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The Takeaway

Paralympian Oscar Pistorius to Compete in Olympic Games

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Oscar Pistorius had both of his legs amputated when he was 11 months old but he has never allowed his disability to limit his achievements. Now, for the first time ever, a Paralympic amputee will compete in track and field races during the summer Olympics.

Comments [1]

Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Hidden Fare Hike for Commuters, the School Bus Goes Electric, and Chrysler's Big Year

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top stories on TN:
Medellin gets a mega escalator (link)
To deal with slow walkers, whip out your bike bell (link)
2011 Year in Review, Houston (link)

New Yorkers on a crowded bus (photo courtesy of Brad Lander)

Ray LaHood on new FAA, trucking rules: "Ultimately, we've given pilots and truck drivers the time to rest. Now, they must exercise the personal responsibility to use that time wisely." (USA Today)

The reduction in the federal commuter tax benefit will look like a fare hike to transit users nationwide. (Star-Ledger, San Francisco Examiner)

Baltimore Sun editorial: "If anything, transit ridership ought to be given an advantage over driving — at least the kind that doesn't involve a car pool."

Disability activists hope the transformation of the city's taxi and livery system will also lead to similar change in transportation services already provided to disabled New Yorkers. (Crain's New York)

The school bus is going electric. (Wall Street Journal; subscription req.)

2011 has been very very good to Chrysler. (NPR)

Forget face detection, this Japanese car seat can tell who's sitting in it through butt recognition. (GizMag)


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Transportation Nation

NYC Okays Wheelchair Accessible Cab

Thursday, October 20, 2011

An MV-1, parked outside NYC TLC headquarters (photo by Kate Hinds)

New York just approved a new vehicle for use in the city's taxi fleet -- a wheelchair-accessible, Indiana-made MV-1.  But riders will only have a few years to hail them before the city's non-accessible "Taxi of Tomorrow" becomes the only sanctioned model.

The vote, which happened at Thursday's Taxi and Limousine Commission meeting, came less than a week after the US Attorney's office weighed in on a lawsuit against the city and said that the lack of wheelchair-accessible cabs violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Disabled activists were on hand at the TLC meeting to testify in support of a rules change necessary to authorize the MV-1 -- and to talk about how difficult it is to hail a cab in the city. Jean Ryan with Disabled in Action said the lack of wheelchair-accessible cabs was frustrating.

Advocates for the disabled at the TLC hearing (photo by Kate Hinds)

"We can never see them, and the stickers are in the back," she said. "So they’ve passed us by the time we see that they’re accessible – if we ever see one. It’s like an Elvis sighting.”

City Council member Oliver Koppel was also there to support the rules change -- and to criticize New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said yesterday that it was too difficult for people in wheelchairs to hail taxis on the street in the first place, and that able-bodied people would feel uncomfortable in a wheelchair-accessible cab because "their suspension is much worse."

“I think the mayor’s concerns are totally off the wall,” Koppell said. He added that “37 members of City Council believe we should have an all-accessible fleet. The US Justice Department believes it. The governor apparently believes it, and it’s long past time for this commission to move in that direction.”

Currently, 231 of New York City's 13,237 taxi cabs are wheelchair accessible.

The MV-1 will retail for about $40,000. It weighs about 5,000 pounds and gets between 13 and 15 miles per gallon, depending on whether the engine uses compressed natural gas or regular fuel. No word yet on how many NYC medallion owners might be tempted to purchase one. But even if drivers take the plunge, they'll only be able to pilot it for a few more years. In May, the city awarded Nissan the contract for the Taxi of Tomorrow. The NV200 will begin to hit the streets by late 2013 and the Nissan will be the only cab in town by 2018. But the NV200 is not wheelchair accessible.

Assembly Member Micah Kellner, wearing a yellow and black button that said "Separate Is Not Equal," said at the TLC meeting: “I don’t care what the Taxi of Tomorrow is, because I think at the end of the day the Justice Department is going to decide that for us.”

Another view of the MV-1 (photo by Kate Hinds)

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Transportation Nation

MetroAccess Tries To Deliver Despite Financial Woes

Thursday, September 29, 2011

MetroAccess vehicles, which provide para-transit services to disabled D.C. residents (photo by Joshua Davis via Flickr)

(Jim Hilgen -- WAMU, Washington, DC) For nearly 20 years, the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority has offered a program called MetroAccess, a door-to-door ride for people who can’t use other forms of public transportation. The problem the service faces, however, is that it's not cheap. And for what Metro spends on the program, it's still fraught with issues.

"If you are going some place the very beginning of the day, and they get you there early, and the place isn’t open yet, and you’re standing outside waiting," says Anne Timley, a vision-impaired D.C. resident who uses MetroAccess as her main means of getting around. "And that has happened to me a couple times. You know you don’t feel safe just standing out there on the street just waiting for some building to open. "

It’s not a surprising story to Patrick Wojahn, chairman of the 'Access For All' committee at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). He says customer service on MetroAccess has long been a bone of contention. "Missed appointments, having to wait for hours after they schedule an appointment for somebody to actually come and pick them up, for terrible customer service through the paratransit system," he says, ticking off the issues.

MetroAccess was created in 1994, after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act -- which required public transit systems across the country to make improvements to their services for disabled riders. Christian Kent, who heads Metro's Office of Accessibility, acknowledges the service is not perfect, but also notes that MetroAccess was never intended to be a permanent transit solution.

He also throws out some statistics: the service works approximately 92 percent of the time for the 2.4 million customers who utilize it every year, he says.

"I do think that there were many people who felt that if we got to that point in time where bus and rail were fully accessible, paratransit would become much less needed," says Kent. "But that has not proven to be the case."

According to WMATA's 2012 budget, MetroAccess will cost $116 million -- or 8% of the transit authority's operating budget (pdf). Revenue from fare-paying passengers is projected to be $6.3 million. Earlier this year, WMATA raised fares on the service to twice the amount of a comparable Metrorail or bus trip to a maximum of $7, up from the base fare of $2.50 charged in 2010.

Timley is one of those for whom bus and rail are not real options, at least at the moment. She lives in Fairfax County, and the layout of the suburbs can make it hard to get to bus stops. And that is often an issue that lies beyond Metro’s control.

"Once the bus stop is put in, Metro does not take charge of it," says Timley. "The county then has to make sure there’s a sidewalk leading to it, make sure it has the curb cut. As pedestrians, you are also competing with the money needed for new roads and for fixing roads and maintenance of roads."

In an era when transit agencies and local governments are already scrounging for funds, riders hoping for substantial changes to MetroAccess may be cooling their heels for quite a while.

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The Takeaway

Japan Relief: Helping the Most Vulnerable

Monday, March 21, 2011

The tsunami came too quickly. Japan's coastal towns had only a 30-minute warning, which was barely enough time to escape the wave, and for many disabled citizens, not enough time at all. The disabled are among the most vulnerable victims of the recent destruction in Japan. Yukiko and Shoji Nakanishi are members of a Japanese relief organization that is working tirelessly to provide shelter and evacuation support to northern Japan's disabled populations. 

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Blizzard Poses Extra Challenges For The Disabled

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snow-covered sidewalks may be an inconvenience for many New Yorkers, but they can pose a much bigger problem for people who are disabled or mobility-impaired.


Transportation Nation

Advocates for the Disabled File Transit Suit

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

(Brooklyn, NY- WNYC) Advocates for the disabled have now officially charged the NYC MTA with violating the Americans with Disability Act over its bus line cuts. The suit claims the transit agency has discriminated against those with disabilities who can't ride the subways because they are in wheelchairs or have other physical or mental disabilities that make it almost impossible to navigate New York's subway system. The vast majority of New York subway stops don't have elevators. Ailsa Chang first covered this story earlier this month. Click here for the full story.

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