Navigating Gotham In A Wheelchair

Not many people know the root of NYC’s nickname, Gotham. Writer, Washington Irving, christened NYC Gotham after the English village where residents pretended to be mad in hopes of preventing the King from living there (and raising their taxes).

Today Gotham seems the perfect designation for a town where getting around can sometimes feel like flirting with madness.

56% of NYC residents depend on public transportation to get to and from work.

7.1% of these residents are people with an ambulatory disability – those who have “serious difficulty walking.”

For these residents, subway elevator closures, packed trains, crumbling sidewalk ramps, and taxis/Uber cars unable to accommodate wheelchairs, do not just cause hassles;  they prevent them from being able to get to and from jobs, family, friends, medical care, shopping, voting, community meetings, arts & cultural events.

In our Equality Indicators study we found among the 491 subway stations in NYC, only 87 are wheelchair accessible. So the vast majority of subway stations within NYC are NOT wheelchair accessible (82.3%). Disability and subway accessibility received a score of 19 out of 100.

Disability and taxis accessibility scored even worse. 92.2% of taxis are NOT wheelchair accessible. Their Equality Indicators score was just 8 out of 100.

As the result of a class-action federal lawsuit initiated in 2011, the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) was mandated in 2013 to make at least 50% of cabs handicap accessible by 2020. But disability advocates argue the rise of Uber (which has taken share away from the TLC) will threaten this victory, reducing the number of overall handicap-accessible vehicles on the road since Uber is not obligated to make any of their vehicles handicap-accessible.

In July 2015 the United Spinal Association held a protest at Uber’s headquarters demanding they comply with the American Disabilities Association’s Title III regulations (nondiscrimination on the basis of disability by public accommodations in commercial facilities).

But Uber contends it is not legally bound to comply with the ADA regulations because it is a technology company not a transportation company.