Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Disability rights groups file class action lawsuit against NYC buses, subways for their inaccessibility

From The NY Daily News. Pictured is a broken elevator in the NYC subway taken by Media dis&dat's BA Haller in April 2010.

The MTA discriminates against the disabled by not doing everything required under federal law to make subway stations wheelchair accessible, a new lawsuit charges.

The class-action suit being filed Oct. 13 in Manhattan federal court slams the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for not spending a federally mandated 20% of station rehabilitation budgets on improvements like elevators and ramps.

"Without access to the subway, the MTA makes travel next to impossible for New Yorkers with physical disabilities and prevents them from getting to work or seeking employment," said James Weismann, senior vice president of the United Spinal Association, which is filing the suit along with Disability Rights Advocates.

The authority's bus and subway division is in the early stages of a $20 million overhaul to the Dyckman St. station on the No. 1 line in northern Manhattan, but it hasn't allocated any funds to making it handicapped accessible, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Weismann said.

The federal law mandates buses and "key" rail stations be accessible to wheelchair users.

NYC Transit doesn't comment on pending litigation, spokesman Charles Seaton said.

The association, formerly called the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, decades ago reached an out-of-court settlement with NYC Transit, in which the agency pledged to make 100 key subway stations accessible by 2020.

About 81 key stations are now accessible or are undergoing construction, according to the MTA's 2010-2014 capital plan, which budgets $500 million to make additional subway stations accessible to the disabled.

The need for accessible subway stations is even more critical, Weismann said, because the authority eliminated or scaled-back dozens of bus routes to help close a budget gap earlier this year.

The MTA is also applying a stricter interpretation of who is eligible for its door-to-door van service, Access-A-Ride.