Taxis may violate Americans with Disabilities Act

How often do you travel by taxi? When you travel by taxi do you think about your ability to get in and out of the automobile? When many of us travel by taxi we probably do not think about the ease with which we can access the vehicle, and we probably do not think about the issue of access when we hail a cab. That perspective reflects the travel needs of people who do not need the assistance of a wheelchair. Now ask yourself the questions from above and think about how many taxis you have traveled in that were not wheelchair-accessible.

The taxi fleet of New York is confronting the issue of wheelchair accessibility and whether the city’s next fleet of taxis will be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. New York City plans to pick one model of vehicle for its approved future fleet of taxis and will choose its approved taxi of the future through its “Taxi of Tomorrow” competition. Under the city’s current plan, the vehicle choices the city has made so far may already be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because the vehicles may not be wheelchair-accessible.

Currently, only 232 of the city’s 13,000 taxi fleet have equipment that allows wheelchair users to get in and out of the vehicles. If New York City chooses Ford Motor Co. or Nissan Motor Co. as the finalist in its competition the new fleet may be in violation according to a New York City assemblyman. The assemblyman sent a letter on the issue to the Justice Department. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, taxis that are vans must be wheelchair accessible but sedans do not. All three motor companies have proposed small vans as their entry but it is not clear whether all three companies van models would be wheelchair accessible.

Only one of the three motor companies, Karsan which is a Turkish car company, has said its van model is wheelchair accessible. New York City will choose the winner of its future taxi competition in the spring.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Taxis threatened over disabilities,” 3/30/11

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