NYC taxi settlement approved

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New York City yellow cab in traffic

New York City Taxi Cab

At the start of 2011, just 1.8 percent of New York City’s 13,237 yellow cab taxis were wheelchair accessible.

Under a first-of-its-kind settlement, signed in federal court September 16, that figure will increase to 50 percent by 2020.

“We should not minimize the importance of this historic moment,” Judge George Daniels wrote in a settlement statement. “Decades from now, most will take it for granted. But this is one of the most significant acts of inclusion in this city since Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers.”

In January 2011, the Taxis for All Campaign, United Spinal Association, 504 Democratic Club and Disabled in Action filed a class-action lawsuit against the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, arguing that the city’s inaccessible taxi fleet violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Disability Rights Advocates and Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton represented the plaintiffs. The Department of Justice also filed an amicus brief on their behalf.

Although the ADA exempts taxis from its transportation accessibility requirements, the plaintiffs argued that the TLC, as a de facto city entity, is legally obligated to ensure people with disabilities have “meaningful access” to its services.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in their favor in December 2011, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the decision the following June.

In the final days of the administration of since-departed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the parties announced a comprehensive agreement, requiring the TLC to propose rules to ensure that half of its yellow cab taxis contain ramps, lifts and other tools making them accessible to people with mobility disabilities by 2020. The TLC approved these rules in May.

The overhaul will be funded by a 30 cent surcharge on regular taxi rides.

“Reliable, accessible transportation will change my life. With a wheelchair accessible fleet I would no longer be relegated to staying home or spending hours trying to get somewhere that takes everyone else 20 minutes,” said Ronnie Raymond, a longtime advocate for accessible taxi service, in a Disability Rights Advocates news release. “Wheelchair accessible taxis and liveries will significantly change my life, and will help thousands of people like me.”