Posted Thursday, December 29, 2011
News from the United Spinal Association
A federal judge ruled that New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act for failing to provide meaningful access to taxicabs for wheelchair users.
In a written ruling, U.S. District Judge George Daniels explained that until the TLC produces a comprehensive plan to provide meaningful access, it can only issue new medallions to wheelchair-accessible taxis.
“Meaningful access for the disabled to public transportation services is not a utopian goal or political promise, it is a basic civil right,” Daniels writes.
The decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed by United Spinal and other disability rights groups in January 2011 against the TLC for failing to provide fair service to wheelchair users. Currently, approximately 230 of the City’s 13,000 yellow cabs are accessible. But that’s about to change, in a big way.
Paul J. Tobin, United Spinal’s president and CEO hailed the ruling as a landmark victory for the disability community––one that could have a major impact on accessible public transportation in cities nationwide.
“After exerting effort for more than a decade on this issue, we are very appreciative of the progress that has been made to make New York’s taxi fleet usable to Americans with mobility impairment,” says Tobin.
“As wheelchair users, it is often assumed that we want to stay home, or that we’re satisfied with the status quo. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are just like any other American. We want to live, work, play and worship in our communities. These things, which are so often taken for granted, are impossible without on-demand, low-cost transportation, like taxis. We’re proud to be on the leading edge of this issue and look forward to the opportunities that come with it for people with disabilities,” adds Tobin.
“Taxi access will permit spontaneous travel for wheelchair and scooter users making them more mobile and employable. They can come in early, work late and socialize without being cramped by advance- reservation -required paratransit (Access a Ride) rules. Government will save money as people with disabilities choose taxis instead of $60 per ride paratransit. And Medicaid, Vocational Rehabilitation, and the Department of Veterans affairs can transport patients and clients by taxi instead of ambulettes which can cost hundreds per ride,” says James Weisman, United Spinal’s senior vice president and general counsel who has fought tirelessly for more accessible taxis in the City.
For years, United Spinal has challenged New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York government, and the TLC for disregarding the needs of all New Yorkers, as well as bringing public attention to their poor choice for New York City’s future standard taxi––Nissan’s NV-200––which lacks wheelchair accessibility.
United Spinal has also advocated for improved accessibility of New York City’s entire public transportation system. It initiated a major advocacy campaign to make every bus and many of the subway stations in the City accessible and was instrumental in getting the City to create sidewalk curb ramps.
“Taxis were a missing link, and we’ve got them now. It feels terrific,” adds Weisman.
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