starring Angela Rockwood, Tiphany Adams, Auti Angel, Mia Schaikewitz and Chelsie Hill

Pushing for accessible taxis in New York

Tonight on PUSH GIRLS, you’ll get a glimpse of a major ongoing accessibility problem: people with disabilities trying to hail cabs in the Big Apple. It’s an uphill battle — New York’s taxi problem is notorious among disabled transit users — and some people are working to change that. Activists in New York have been fighting for decades now for accessible taxis, through negotiations, court cases and protests.

Fewer than 2 percent of New York taxis are wheelchair accessible, and the Taxis for All Campaign is trying to change that. They propose asking that taxi drivers upgrade to accessible vans when they trade in their taxis, which would result in a gradual overhaul of the New York taxi fleet without huge upfront costs. Fiscally, wheelchair-accessible taxis would actually save the city money in the long term, which makes it seem like they should be a no-brainer! The campaign is also demanding that drivers with accessible vehicles actually pull over for disabled passengers, rather than passing them by in the interest of grabbing a quicker fare.

In July, a court struck down a ruling that would have required the city to only issue taxi licenses to drivers with accessible vehicles, arguing that cabbies aren’t required to serve disabled passengers under the Americans with Disabilities Act. While this was a blow, activists certainly have no plans to give up yet.

This month, protesters took to the street to complain about the ruling and raise awareness. They picketed in front of Gracie Mansion to draw attention to the fact that Mayor Bloomberg has a strange antipathy towards wheelchair users, resisting any efforts to increase accessibility in the taxi fleet. In fact, he’s even gone as far as to say that wheelchair users shouldn’t be hailing cabs in the first place! Apparently they’re supposed to get around on magic wings.

Several were arrested, posing a challenge to police officers who weren’t quite sure what to do with them. Unlike my home state of California, where disability protests are common enough in major cities that many police forces have a plan in place for handling people using equipment like powerchairs and ventilators, the New York cops didn’t even have accessible vehicles to transplant arrestees. Too bad they couldn’t hail a cab, eh?

Photo credits: Ansalve and PeterJBellis

If you can’t stand up, stand out! PUSH GIRLS airs on Mondays at 10P.