Friday, December 6, 2013

NY City agrees on access to taxis for disabled people

From The NY Times: Pictured is an accessible cab, but not the one the city has confirmed it will use.

Ending years of acrimony, New York City has agreed to settle a major class-action lawsuit and adopt regulations requiring that half of the city’s more than 13,000 yellow cabs be accessible to people with disabilities within six years, a person involved in the negotiations said on Dec. 5. 

The deal calls for half of all new medallion taxis put into service in any given year to be wheelchair accessible, until the goal of 50 percent of the city’s fleet is reached, the person said. 

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2011, charged that the city, with only a fraction of its medallion taxis accessible to wheelchair users, was in violation of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. 

Documents related to the settlement are expected to be filed on Friday morning in United States District Court in Manhattan. Judge George B. Daniels, who has been overseeing the case, will eventually have to approve any agreement. The deal is expected to be announced formally on Friday morning at a news conference attended by city officials and disability advocates. 

The agreement allows the Bloomberg administration to resolve one of its major and still-pending legal disputes before Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio takes office. And it seems to increase the likelihood that no matter what approach Mr. de Blasio takes on taxi matters, the settlement will govern the accessibility issue going forward. 

Mr. de Blasio, who has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from the taxi industry, has been a frequent critic of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s taxi policies. They include a plan, invalidated for now, for a near-uniform taxi fleet, known as the Taxi of Tomorrow program. 

Advocates for the disabled have criticized the cab chosen for the program, the Nissan NV200, because it is not wheelchair-accessible without modifications. The settlement is not linked to the Taxi of Tomorrow plan, the Nissan NV200 cab or any program, the person said.