The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned a ruling saying that New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission (T.L.C.) had to provide more "meaningful access" to wheelchair users in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) on Thursday, reports the New York Times. The Commission was the defendant in a class-action suit brought by advocacy groups for disabled passengers.
Currently there are an estimated 230 wheelchair accessible yellow cabs in New York. Although the T.L.C. is hoping to introduce the Taxi of Tomorrow at the end of 2013, the new cabs -- all Nissan NV 200 models -- will not be accessible for wheelchairs unless they are modified. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg agrees with the court's decision that the taxis are not required to be accessible. "Nothing in the A.D.A. compels the city to require that taxis be wheelchair accessible," he said. "The ruling is consistant with common sense and the practical needs of both the taxi industry, and the disabled, and we will continue our efforts to assist disabled riders."
Part of that effort is a dispatch service that would allow taxi riders who use wheelchairs to call for an accessible cab to pick them up. Another option is the MTA's Access-A-Ride vehicles, but advocates say that Access-A-Ride and the as-yet-unveiled dispatch system are not always effective. Edith Prentiss, a member of Taxis for All, said that these measures are "a joke." She also said that the Commission "will not be able to placate the disability community with this kind of second-class, segregated service."
The general council for the United Spinal Association, James Weisman, took the idea of segregation a bit further in his comments. In reaction to the court's ruling, he said, "In the Jim Crow South, blacks were given separate, inferior facilities and services. This mayor treats people with disabilities in a similar fashion."
In its ruling, the court said, "No doubt, more such taxis would be on the streets if the T.L.C. required more of them to be accessible, but the T.L.C.'s failure to use its regulatory authority does not amount to discrimination within the meaning of the A.D.A. or its regulations."