Part of the charm of living in or visiting New York City is the fun, convenience and excitement of taking the subway or hailing a cab…unless, of course, you’re in a wheelchair. Most subway stops and taxis are inaccessible, leaving individuals in a wheelchair waiting for long periods of time for the bus or relying on prescheduled trips with Access-A-Ride. While able-bodied New Yorkers are able to commute any way they please, disabled travelers are severely limited.
As a result of NYC’s inaccessible transportation system, specifically that of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, several disability advocacy groups and, ultimately, the U.S. Department of Justice, sued the City of New York for discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In response to this lawsuit, on Tuesday, New York Governor Cuomo called for the city to expand the number of accessible cabs present on the city’s streets. Cuomo’s bill, which NYC Mayor Bloomberg agreed to, called for 2,000 new completely accessible yellow cab medallions and the issuance of 6,000 special hail licenses.
On Friday, U.S. federal Judge George Daniels of the Southern District of NY, agreed with Governor Cuomo and held that NYC’s yellow-cab taxi system discriminates against the disabled. Daniels held that “[t]he acknowledged lack of meaningful access is a direct result of the policies, practices, and regulations of [the Taxi and Limousine Commission]. … The TLC’s exercise of its regulatory authority alone has created the discriminatory effects on disabled riders who require the use of wheelchairs.”
Additionally, as part of his ruling, Daniels ordered the City to begin making the city’s cabs wheelchair accessible. Pursuant to the order, the City must make a plan as to how it intends to improve the TLC’s accessibility, which must then be approved by Daniel.
Soon, with this order and Cuomo’s bill, it won’t just be women showing a little leg, who can hail a cab in NYC, but so can our disabled veterans and wheelchair confined New Yorkers.