Some New York residents who use wheelchairs and their advocates are pushing for new legislation that would require transportation services such as Uber to have more wheelchair-accessible vehicles. They wrote a letter to 213 state legislators saying that pending bills to regulate transportation network companies need to protect their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The bills would prohibit transportation network companies from charging more for services to passengers with physical or mental disabilities, but they do not explicitly require the companies to provide all passengers with equivalent service regardless of disability status. The advocates want to ensure that passengers with disabilities receive safe and dignified service.
Uber has been operating in New York City for four years, and there are more Uber cars than yellow taxis on New York streets. Uber and another transportation service, Lyft, operate in New York City but not in other cities or towns in the state.
Uber said it works with green taxis in northern Manhattan and the city’s other boroughs outside the area where yellow taxis operate to serve customers with disabilities. It said it provides about 300 trips per week and has an average pickup time of five minutes.
An Uber spokesman said the company’s app was created to improve access to safe, reliable transportation for all passengers. He said the company is looking for ways to expand its services for disabled passengers. Advocates and New York residents who use wheelchairs want more. They are urging lawmakers to pass requirements for all taxi services in the city, including areas where ride-booking services may begin to operate.
According to the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York, there are an estimated 90,000 wheelchair users in the city and as many more in the rest of the state. According to census data, there are almost 1.2 million New York state residents with a variety of ambulatory disabilities.
New York currently plans to make half of the almost 14,000 yellow cabs in the city wheelchair-accessible by 2020. The Taxi and Limousine Commission requires all for-hire vehicle base stations to provide some accessible vehicles. The commission sold 100 pairs of medallions for wheelchair-accessible yellow cabs two years ago, which almost doubled the number in the city. Buses, trains, and some subway stations in New York are also wheelchair-accessible.
New York City has made significant progress in terms of providing wheelchair-accessible transportation for residents and visitors with disabilities, but more work remains to be done. We hope that the needs of disabled passengers will be taken into account when legislators meet to debate the bills currently before them.