On April 3rd, officials in New York City unveiled the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” which is scheduled to replaces all existing cabs in the Big Apple. The “Taxis of Tomorrow” does contain some accessibility features geared towards helping people with vision or hearing impairments, including braille writing identifying the name of the cab’s driver and a hearing loop system and driver and passenger intercom system. Unfortunately, the standard model does not come with a built in ramp for people using mobility devices like wheelchairs.
The “Taxis of Tomorrow” can be converted into an accessible van, with the addition of a ramp that unfolds from the back of the vehicle. By some estimates, the ramp might add up to $12,000 to the price of each taxi.
Currently, only 233 of the more than 13,000 taxis in New York City are accessible. That’s fewer than 2 percent. Late last year a federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission for violating the ADA. Judge George Daniels ruled that the commission could only provide taxi medallions for wheelchair-accessible vehicles until it establishes a plan to provide access people who use mobility devices. Since then the commission has since been granted a stay pending an appeal scheduled for April 19th.
Groups like “Taxis for All” are protesting the new taxi design, pointing out that vehicles with built-in accessibility options already exist (like the MV-1 van) and that true equality requires that all taxis be fully accessible, rather than requiring people with disabilities to contact taxis dispatches rather than being able to hail any cab from the street.