Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Livery cab drivers in NYC protest picking up wheelchair users for same fare as non-disabled people

From NY 1:

Brooklyn resident Renee Wade uses a motorized scooter to get around. On Tuesday, she was waiting for an Access-a-Ride van, but if that doesn't come, she'll take a Livery cab -- that is, if she can get one.

"A lot of them say no, no, no. They are out of order or they have somewhere else to go," Wade said.

Her problem may just have gotten worse. Livery cab drivers protested outside Taxi and Limousine Commission headquarters on Tuesday saying they've had it with being forced to pick up people in wheelchairs for the same fare as a person without physical disabilities.

"We are suspending all service to the wheelchair community," said New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers President Fernando Mateo.

Under a law that's been on the books since 2001, Livery cab companies have to pick up someone in a wheelchair as quickly and at the same price as an able-bodied passenger or arrange for another company to do the job.

Mateo insists it wasn't enforced until this year when former City Councilman David Yassky became TLC Commissioner. The TLC says it's always been enforced, only more so now.

"That's the right principle, the principle we're committed to and we'll continue to enforce our rules," Yassky said.

Mateo says since Access-a-Ride is reimbursed between $60 and $90 per fare and has 24 to 48 hours to schedule rides it should also apply to Livery companies.

"It's really unfair that Taxi and Limousine Commission and the commissioner would be punishing us by fining us thousands of dollars for not being able to respond to someone on a wheelchair within three minutes like we would with a regular person," Mateo said.

"We've seen cutbacks in Access-a-Ride and now we're being told we can't access the Livery system. We're being held hostage here," said Brooklyn Independence Center For The Disabled Executive Director Marvin Wasserman.

In the meantime, Renee Wade is hoping for a compromise because she relies on the Livery cabs to live her life.