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06/13/2011

Comments

Mark Bagshaw

I don't live in New York - in fact I couldn't live much further away if I tried (Sydney, Australia) - but I have been to New York many, many times over the years, primarily for business (I worked for IBM for 28 years). From my first trip over 20 years ago I have sung New York's praises in public forums around the world. I still remember returning from my first trip where I experienced firsthand how much difference it made to my productivity and to my enjoyment of this great city to be able to catch any bus in the city (I use a wheelchair following a spinal injury at age 16).

Back then there was NO wheelchair accessible public transport at all in Australia, or in most other parts of the world. What struck me more than anything was the numbers of people moving around the city in wheelchairs (including many who, judging by their attire at least, were working, paying taxes, adding to the city's economy).

Since then Australia has closed the gap considerably, although we have a long way to go before all of our public transport is fully wheelchair accessible. As a result of the adoption of Accessible Transport Standards developed in response to our Disability Discrimination Act (the equivalent of the ADA), about 15-20 % of Australia's public transport (including trains, buses, taxis, ferries) is now wheelchair accessible, and by 2032 - far too long in the eyes of many - it will all be (including taxis). And like New York all those years ago, there are more people who use wheelchairs participating in our community and our economy as a result.

I am therefore absolutely gobsmacked at this disgraceful decision by New York not to make wheelchair accessibility one of the essential criteria for the development of the Taxi of Tomorrow. What an incredible, shortsighted decision! What a wasted opportunity!! As the Karsan clearly proved, it is entirely possible to design a vehicle that meets all of the needs of taxi passengers, including people who use wheelchairs. This is not rocket science.

I can only hope that fair-minded New Yorkers will hear the calls that I hope the disability community will make to put this right before it's too late.

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