The news just keeps throwing ‘em at us lately. This time, the US Justice Department is suing New York City over its relative lack of accessible taxis, but NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn’t see what the big deal is.
In fact, he’s opposed to the idea of making all of the taxis accessible (despite the fact that it’s already been done in other cities, most notably in London, England) on the following grounds:
- Accessible taxis are more expensive to operate.
- The suspension is worse in accessible taxis than in typical cabs, so people might use them less.
- People are going to get hurt trying to get across the increased space between the back seat and divider in an accessible taxi, to pay the driver, increasing the risk of lawsuits.
- People in wheelchairs will find it too difficult to hail an accessible taxi from the street and get into it anyway.
Bloomberg’s proposed solution is to have the city’s 230 accessible taxis dispatched by phone to locations. A number of people who use wheelchairs or who have friends and/or family that use wheelchairs indicated in comments on the articles just why this wouldn’t be acceptable to them.
Bloomberg Evaluates “Needs” re: Taxis
I have multiple difficulties with all this, but the one that really got to me the most when I came across this story yesterday can be summed up in a single quote attributed to Bloomberg:
“It’s always somebody who says, ‘oh, no, everything has to be handicapped accessible, or wheelchair accessible,’ but that’s not necessarily what the people that are in wheelchairs need,”
I think that comment in particular ranks as one of the most ignorant about disabilities that I’ve ever heard. What in God’s name do they need then, Mr. Bloomberg? It’s not like it’s okay *sometimes* when things aren’t accessible, because on that day the paraplegic isn’t feeling so tired and might be able to manage a regular taxi…generally, when you’re in a wheelchair, you’re in there for a reason, and you don’t have the choice of saying, “I’ll just go non-accessible today.” The thread running through a lot of the comments on the linked articles was that people wished that Mr. Bloomberg would spend a day or two in a wheelchair trying to get around New York City, to get an idea of what his constituents that use wheelchairs *really* need.
Accessible Taxis and Visitors
And not just constituents. New York thrives on tourism. If I was in a non-folding wheelchair and my main consideration about what city in which to vacation was ease with which I would be able to get around…frankly, from what I’ve heard, I’d probably go to London. It’s an awesome city, just as exciting a place to visit as New York, and *all* the taxis are accessible.
Really, Mr. Bloomberg…could you blame me?