Mayor Bloomberg isn’t exactly a happy camper these days, especially when the subject turns to wheelchair-accessible taxis in New York City. You see, the US attorney’s office recently filed suit against New York City, for non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Well, according to United Spinal Organization, less than 2% of the city’s 13,000 taxis are wheelchair-accessible. And frankly I agree with the US attorney’s office — in this day and age that’s totally unacceptable.
However I will say that the mayor isn’t exactly the best person to challenge the lawsuit, as he doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp of the situation. In fact he freely admits that it’s difficult for wheelchair-users to hail a cab in the Big Apple. I wouldn’t say difficult, I’d say darn near impossible.
First you have to find one, and then you actually have to be able to get them to pull over. Quite frankly, most taxis don’t like to stop for wheelers cause they feel they take more time and they can’t charge more. An apparently the mayor is quite aware of this issue, as he said “If you’re in a wheelchair, it’s really hard to go out in the street and hail down a cab and get the cab to pull over and get into [it].”
Yes dear mayor it is hard to get them to pull over. My friend Carroll used to lurk in the shadows and then send out an AB decoy to hail one for her. She had it down to a science, as that was the only way she could get a cab to stop for her. Sad but true. And she’s not alone.
So instead of dodging the issue and actively fighting making the taxi fleet more accessible, the mayor should be coming down hard on drivers who blatantly discriminate against disabled passengers, by refusing to stop and pick them up. By the way, if this should ever happen to you in the Big Apple, get the taxi’s number and call 311 and report it.
The mayor also cited cost as a prohibitive factor in acquiring accessible taxis, as he claimed it would cost more to buy accessible taxis. Sure, that’s true if you order the taxis from Nissan — the vendor chosen by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC).
But might I remind folks that Turkey-based Karsan submitted a competitive bid for a 100% accessible fleet. That’s right, if the TLC would have gone with Karsan, they could have had accessible taxis for the same cost as the non-accessible Nissan models. So instead of hiding behind the cost issue as an excuse to dodge providing accessible services Mr. Mayor, why don’t you check out why the contract wasn’t awarded to a company that could supply these vehicles at no additional cost?
Can we say kickback? Granted I have no evidence of that, but let’s be real — why else would you go with a vendor who provides fewer features for the same amount of money?
In any case, hopefully the suit will force New York City to acquire more accessible taxis. And for those of you who think that would be an unfair burden, might I remind you that 100% of London’s Black Cabs are wheelchair-accessible. It’s the law.
So lighten up Mayor Bloomberg, and get on the inclusion bandwagon. After all it’s been over 20 years since the ADA was passed!