Able News Column April 2024 – New York is Shirking Its Obligation to Provide Wheelchair-Accessible Taxis

The bad news is that the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) is failing to comply with a 2014 agreement to make at least 50% of their yellow taxi fleet accessible to people who use wheelchairs.  The good news is that this is exactly the kind of problem Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) was built to solve, and we are taking action to hold the TLC accountable. 

If you’re a wheelchair-user and have tried to hail a yellow cab in New York recently, your experience likely went something like my most recent experience at Kennedy International Airport.  I got in the line for a cab. I had to wait significantly longer than other taxi-goers for an accessible vehicle. The first driver who showed up said his ramp was broken and he couldn’t transport me. I watched other passengers pile into that taxi, and I waited for another accessible taxi to arrive. When another accessible taxi showed up, the same thing happened. I watched again and again as non-wheelchair-users filed into inaccessible vehicles. Going on 40 minutes later, I still didn’t have a ride. 

We know that this is completely unacceptable, so let me tell you what DRA and our partner organizations are doing about it. In 2011, DRA filed a class-action lawsuit against the TLC on behalf of a coalition of people with disabilities including Taxis for All Campaign, United Spinal Association, 504 Democratic Club, and Disabled in Action, challenging the TLC’s dismal lack of wheelchair-accessible taxis.  In 2014, after 4 years of legal proceedings, we reached a historic, court-enforceable settlement agreement in which the TLC promised to make at least 50% of its taxis accessible for wheelchair-users.  At that time, the fleet was more than 98% inaccessible, and this agreement represented outstanding progress in accessible transportation for people with disabilities in New York. The judge in that case, U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels said of the settlement:

“We should not minimize the importance of this historic moment. Decades from now, most will take it for granted. But this is one of the most significant acts of inclusion since Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. It is an act of a city that equally values all of its residents and visitors.”

Fast forward nearly ten years. While there are certainly more accessible yellow cabs on the streets than there were in 2014, the TLC has failed to meet the requirement for a 50% accessible fleet. DRA knows this because, as with all our settled cases, we work closely with our clients and the courts to monitor progress to ensure that the promised change occurs. 

When a defendant in one of our cases—in this case the TLC—fails to meet their obligations, we have tools at our disposal to make them comply. In this case we, on February 21st, along with a coalition of disability groups, filed a motion in federal court to compel the TLC to comply with the provisions of the 2014 settlement. It is our hope and aim that the Court will in turn issue an order that will result in the TLC fulfilling their obligations so that we wheelchair-users can use a fleet of cabs that are indeed 50% accessible. 

This is the power of using the law to promote civil rights and social change. This is the power of engaging with amazing individuals and organizations as clients who are unafraid to advocate for the change they want to see in the world. I hope to be able to share an update on this issue soon that means we can all easily use yellow cabs to navigate to work, play, and home. 

As a reminder, if you want to learn more about DRA’s precedent-setting legal work, connect with us on social media or visit our website at  

Read the entire April 2024 Able News Issue