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“If London Can Run an Accessible Fleet…”

January 18 2012 | by

London skyscraper view at dusk

Two prominent disability organizations responded to the January 5 New York Times Op-Ed by Matthew Daus, a former chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission regarding the availability of accessible taxis in New York. I had written a post about the Op-Ed, saying that Daus’s proposed plan — to create a “dial-a-ride” dispatch system run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in lieu of bringing more accessible cabs to the city — would create an unequal access problem and deny people with mobility disabilities the opportunity to do what everyone else can do.

I wrote: “The whole point of hailing a cab is to not have to worry about time, location and traffic. You simply go outside when you are ready, hold up your hand (or leg), and hail a cab to the curb. Daus says this luxury shouldn’t apply to people with disabilities, even those who can afford to pay for it.”

James Weisman, a lawyer for the United Spinal Association, the organization that filed a lawsuit against the city for failing to produce enough accessible cabs, agrees. He says the “the city tried a dispatch system … and it failed miserably,” and that “if London can run a 100 percent accessible fleet, so can New York City.”

London does have the most accessible taxi system in the world. All black cabs in London are wheelchair accessible and carry assistance dogs at no charge. They all have ramps so the person does not have to get out of their chair, whether they are short ramps built into the floor of the vehicle or portable ramps.

Most taxis have a variety of additional aids for travellers, including swivel seats, an intermediate step, seat sight patches, grab handles, intercom and induction loop. Buses are also a very good means of transportation for a wheelchair user in London because they can push a button on the exterior of the bus and a ramp extends out to the sidewalk.

This means that wheelchair users planning to attend the 2012 Olympics in London can go with confidence. A new guide coming out in 2012, Access In London, will provide all the information anyone needs. You can order a guide on their website.

Carol Glazer, head of the National Organization on Disability, also wrote a letter to the editor. Glazer takes the argument against a dispatch system one step further, writing that without enough cabs, people with disabilities would not be able to get to work as easily. The plan “excludes the thousands of working New Yorkers who need to arrive at work on time. Inefficient plans like these contribute to the low employment rate of people with disabilities: less than a third are employed.”

An third commenter noted, as I did in my post, that a more accessible fleet of taxis is good for “the elderly, people affected by arthritis, muscle and joint illnesses, and injuries, people with strollers and so on.” As a new mother, I can definitely attest to the luxury of a larger cab when I come into the city. Accessible cabs are a perfect example of how universal design benefits everyone.

  • Kmrobitaille

    I had no idea that London had accessible taxis and think it is high time the US does the same. Great information.

  • Lisa Cape Lilienthal

    I love the black cabs in London! So VERY easy to roll right in, and for your friends/family/colleagues to sit together with you. The design is genius.

  • Suzanne Robitaille

    Mom, don’t you remember when we went to London how big those cabs were? They are accessible!

  • Suzanne Robitaille

    I think they are brilliant too, and they’re not “Special” for people in wheelchairs.

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