A class action lawsuit by disability rights advocates charging the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) with discrimination will go forward, according to a federal judge.
On May 24, Judge George Daniels refused to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to force the TLC to make all taxis accessible. The plaintiffs charge that the city’s low number of accessible taxis – less than 300 in a fleet of 13,000 vehicles – violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The lawsuit was filed in January by Disabled in Action, United Spinal, Taxis for All and others. They are represented by Disability Rights Advocates. The next court date is scheduled for August 10th.
Edith Prentiss, chair of the Taxis For All Campaign said, “We're elated by Judge Daniels's decision—made from the bench—to reject the City's attempt to get Noel v. TLC dismissed. Our attorneys made it clear that the City's attempts to claim that federal and state law do not apply to its regulation of the taxi system are wrong.”
On May 3, the TLC chose the Nissan NV200 as the city’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” to replace the current fleet over a period of ten years. The standard model of the vehicle is not accessible and modifications to include an entry ramp are not required and pose an additional fee to drivers.
Connie Pankratz, deputy communications director for the NYC Law Department said, “We are confident that we will prevail once the full merits are heard. No federal or local law requires that taxicabs be accessible to people with wheelchairs, and in fact, the ADA specifically exempts taxicabs from the requirement.”
The ADA does, however, require vans to be accessible, which is the basis of several legal complaints about the city’s choice of the Nissan vehicle.
On May 23, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan also launched an investigation into whether the low number of accessible taxis violates the ADA, following up on a complaint by Assemblyman Micah Kellner that was filed with the Department of Justice.
This article was published in the July 2011 issue of Able News.