Accessible taxis will now become a reality for those with disabilities in New York City as the city agreed to make 50% of its taxi fleet accessible by 2020. The battle to create more accessible taxi transportation services for those with disabilities has existed for years. In 2011, four disability advocacy groups decided to file a class-action lawsuit against the city for its failure to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) policy regarding public transportation. Mayor Bloomberg’s administration had repeatedly denied being non-compliant when it came to providing appropriate accessible public transportation options to wheelchair users.
The agreement reached earlier this month regarding transportation accessibility outlines that half of the city’s 13,000+ yellow cabs must be accessible to people with disabilities in six years. As of the time of this article, only 231 of the city’s 13,237 in-service taxicabs are wheelchair accessible. Though the city did implement a dispatch program in June 2012 that allows wheelchair users to request the few available accessible taxis, this service alone does not ameliorate the transportation barrier that plague wheelchair users. Given the national and international appeal of the Big Apple, it is unacceptable that 1.75% of New York City’s yellow taxicabs are currently wheelchair accessible.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission will pass regulations that will require cab owners to purchase wheelchair accessible taxicabs when it is time for them to replace or retire the taxicabs that are currently in use. (Most taxicabs have a lifespan of three to five years, taking into consideration of how they are utilized.) This landmark deal demands that half of all new yellow cabs that are obtain in any given year to be wheelchair accessible, until the 50% goal is achieved.
Winning this battle for transportation accessibility is a key moment in the disability rights and advocacy movement. When disability advocates and allies band together to demand equality and justice for those with disabilities, especially when it is clearly outlined in a pivotal piece of federal legislation such as the ADA, our lawmakers cannot continue to ignore such united voices for what is right and just. New York City is not the only city in the United States where the war for appropriate transportation options has been waged. Transportation is a huge barrier that people with disabilities endure in rural and urban areas alike. Not having access to appropriate transportation options unfairly disadvantages people with disabilities when it comes to attaining educational and employment opportunities, as well as hinders their ability to become independent members within their communities.
Many people are unaware of how serious the impact of a lack of accessible transportation can negatively affect one’s quality of life and gaining the opportunities to be productive, sociable, and self-sufficient members in our society. It is erroneous to assume that policies regarding accessible transportation are being properly adhered to within our cities and towns. I urge everyone who reads this article to research the accessible transportation options in their area. If you find ADA-related compliance issues, write and/or call your local, state, and federal representatives. It is only when we bring such disparities to their attention that empowering change(s) will occur.
Vilissa Thompson, LMSW is the Disability and Advocacy Staff Writer for Social Work Helper, and she is also the Founder of Ramp Your Voice! In addition to being a Disability Rights Consultant and Advocate, Vilissa seeks to propel the faces and voices of people of color with disabilities both within the disability community and in the general public. Vilissa can be contacted via email at Vilissa@rampyourvoice.com, or by visiting the Ramp Your Voice! website at http://www.rampyourvoice.com/.