April 21, 2010

taxiAnd you thought it was hard to hail a cab if you’re African-American! (I know, bad, overgeneralized stereotype–perhaps not an inaccurate one— but there’s a point here, I promise).

It’s worse if you’re in a wheelchair since, even if one were to stop, 98% of them aren’t designed to accommodate wheelchairs anyway.

The New York Times reports on a report about wheelchair-accessible hired transportation. This includes cabs and also for-hire rides that you call to pick you up.

It turns out that most of the for-hire rides are subcontracted out. And while the for-hire companies are prohibited from charging riders more for using a wheelchair, the subcontractors are not prohibited from charging the livery company more.

The end result being that it is really, really hard to get a ride in New York if you have a disability. And the agency responsible for enforcing the pertinent rules/laws/policies hasn’t been doing so.

That’s not to say it’s all bad news. You can call 311 from anywhere in New York City and get an accessible taxi to come pick you up. The 311 service is exactly the sort of accommodation that I’m talking about when I get all soapboxy on society being accommodating toward people with disabilities. It’s something that is functional and practical for people without disabilities, too.

Design note after the jump.

The real reason this is a problem for the livery companies is because adapting a vehicle to accommodate a wheelchair involves doing something special to it. The principles of Universal Design could be applied to automobile manufacture to make all cars more accommodating so they won’t have to do anything special to the vehicles.

turnout bucket seat

Turnout seat

How about bucket seats that rotate outward to make a pivot-transfer easier?

How about ramps in minivans as standard equipment? the only reason these adaptations cost tens of thousands more than a normal car is because it isn’t mass-produced.

Wow. Any or all of these features would be useful for abled people as well! (Imagine that: Universal Design aids people universally.)

Also, why are wheelchairs built the way they are? Their design seems a little clunky and dated to me. Perhaps there is a way to construct a chair that makes transfers into cars from a curb easier. And to make stowing them in a normal car easier.

One Response to “Taxi!”

  1. Akua Says:

    Amen! I don’t understand why amendments for wheelchair access are so costly, though– the mechanics aren’t complex, the additions aren’t all that exotic. I’m upstate NY with no paratransit, trying to find a solution, so if any of your readers
    have ideas, vehicles or suggestions, let me know.

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