Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 17:20 EDT

Letter to Gov. Cuomo from Taxis For All Campaign: For wheelchair-accessible taxis and liveries in New York City based upon universal design principles

December 16, 2011

Re: Livery bill (A.8496/S.5825)

NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following letter is being released today by the Taxis For All Campaign:

Dear Governor Cuomo:

Thank you and your team for your thoughtful decision-making process, and we hope, dedication to ensuring that wheelchair and scooter users in New York City will be able to use and enjoy the services provided by the yellow taxi and livery industry, just like other New Yorkers and visitors.

For 15 years, the Taxis For All Campaign, a coalition of disability groups and individuals with disabilities, has fought for one simple goal: an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant taxi system, both for yellow medallion taxis and for liveries. On behalf of these groups, the Taxis For All Campaign brought a lawsuit in Federal Court seeking an ADA-compliant yellow hail system (Noel v. Taxi & Limousine Commission). We hope we can rely on you to ensure that any new taxi or livery system, or taxi or livery legislation with your signature, complies with this powerful Federal civil rights law.

Currently, only 232 taxis out of approximately 13,000 yellow taxis are accessible, making travel by taxi a virtual impossibility for wheelchair users. These numbers are abysmal, and an embarrassment to our great city and great state. The fix however, is not complicated. In order to be ADA-compliant, all new vehicles being brought into service as yellow taxi cabs must be vehicles that are accessible to wheelchair and scooter users. This is the only way to increase the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles quickly and efficiently. A requirement of this nature would make a great deal of difference to the lives of tens of thousands of people, as it would allow them to travel spontaneously throughout New York City, reduce demand for Access-A-Ride and reduce travel-related Medicaid expenditures. No alternative system can facilitate spontaneity like simply hailing a taxi.

The livery system is similarly useless to the thousands of New Yorkers who use wheelchairs and scooters. There are currently only 23 accessible livery cabs in use, out of a fleet that is over 35,000 vehicles strong.

The livery bill before you would create what is in essence a new transportation system in New York City by authorizing the City to issue as many as 30,000 permits for a new kind of livery vehicle with street hail privileges in neighborhoods underserved by the yellow taxi system.

Under this proposal, however, not one single vehicle in the new street hail system would be accessible. It also is unlikely that requiring a small percentage of permits, such as 2,000, to be dedicated to accessible street hail livery service would provide any meaningful access, since the City has offered no plan to ensure that accessible vehicles would actually be in operation in a street-hail system. The liveries would have to acquire accessible vehicles for this purpose since they do not operate them now; neither the Taxi & Limousine Commission, nor those representing the liveries, have committed to requiring and/or acquiring them. Thus, the bill before you would leave the city’s livery system with not one single additional accessible cab, and would only serve to maintain a system that in no way complies with the ADA.

As of yet, the Taxi & Limousine Commission, Mayor Bloomberg and his City Hall administration have been unresponsive, if not hostile, to the rights and needs of persons with disabilities in New York City. This is why it is particularly critical for the State to act, and protect the civil rights of your citizens. We are not asking for special treatment, we simply wish to be able to use, and access, public transportation like our fellow New Yorkers. Without your aid at this moment, we will be shut out of this basic form of public transportation for years to come.

As ADA sponsor and disability rights champion U.S. Senator Tom Harkin wrote in a column for the New York Daily News, “One of the basic premises of the ADA and other disability rights laws is that when you are building or designing something new, you should do it with the needs of all of its potential users in mind. In the context of office buildings, the ADA requires more accessibility from new construction or major renovations than it does from existing structures. This also makes access easier and safer for many people who don’t have disabilities, like parents pushing strollers and delivery people pushing carts. In the case of a new design for taxis, the same principle applies. Make the cabs wheelchair-accessible at the design stage and you will dramatically improve mobility for New Yorkers and visitors who require this accessibility – and quite likely save money down the road.” Senator Harkin’s words are wise, and we urge you to act accordingly and veto this bill.

The disability community supports better service for everyone in all five boroughs. However, people with disabilities should not be excluded from this new taxi and livery system. A world-class city deserves a world-class transportation system. The city is trying to implement a new system, and it should do it correctly, and in compliance with the ADA, right from the start.

Wheelchair users need to use street hail liveries as much as their neighbors without disabilities. It is necessary to develop an ADA-compliant plan for street hail livery service. The TLC, the industry and people with disabilities should engage in this planning process to ensure that people with disabilities gain meaningful access to the new service.

We deeply appreciate your support of disability rights, and at this critical moment, we need you to champion our cause. Therefore, we respectfully request that you veto the livery bill (A.8496.S.5825).

Yours truly,
Edith Prentiss
Chair, Taxis For All Campaign

Bronx Independent Living Services ? Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled ? Disabled in Action of Metropolitan NY ? Disabilities Network NYC ? Center for Independence of the Disabled, Queens and New York ? The Council of the City New York ? Harlem Independent Living Center, Inc. ? Multiple Sclerosis Society, New York City-Southern New York Chapter ? Staten Island Center for Independent Living ? United Spinal Association ? 504 Democrats

Available Topic Expert(s): For information on the listed expert(s), click appropriate link.
Jim Weisman – http://www.profnetconnect.com/jim_weisman

SOURCE Taxis For All Campaign

Source: PR Newswire