Court of Appeals Decision in Noel v. TLC

New York, NY – June 28, 2012 – Today a Federal Court of Appeals panel overturned the ruling that New York’s taxi fleet is covered by the ADA and granted the City’s motion for summary judgment.

The Federal Court Panel held: that “Title II(A) does not obligate the TLC to use its licensing and regulatory authority over the New York City taxi industry to require that taxi owners provide meaningful access to taxis for persons with disabilities.”

The Court then ordered that the case be “remanded with instructions for the District Court…for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

The federal class action lawsuit, which seeks no damages, was filed in January 2011 by a coalition of people with disabilities, including: United Spinal Association, 504 Democratic Club, Taxis for All Campaign, and Disabled In Action.  Disability Rights Advocates, a non- profit legal center specializing in class action litigation, and Outten & Golden represent the Plaintiffs.

New York City has more taxis than any city in America. Yet only 232 (1.8%) out of 13,237 taxis are accessible to people who use wheelchairs. Because subway stations are also inaccessible, the lack of accessible taxis has left wheelchair users with no viable way to travel in New York City. A non-disabled person is over 25 times more likely to get a taxi within ten minutes than is a person who uses a wheelchair, and the TLC admits there is no reason why it could not require that more taxis be accessible.

This decision overturns a landmark decision which would have required New York to make its taxi system wheelchair accessible. London’s taxi fleet of over 19,000 cabs, by contrast, has been 100% wheelchair accessible for many years. This decision also runs contrary to the advice of the United States Department of Justice which, in October 2011, took the rare step of filing a brief supporting Disability Rights Advocates’ position that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires the New York taxi fleet to be wheelchair accessible.

Edith Prentiss of the Taxis For All Campaign said, “This ruling will not stop us. We have been fighting for the rights of persons with disabilities to use this public transportation system for a decade, and the fight will continue. The TLC’s dispatch system was, and is a joke. The TLC will not be able to placate the disability community with this kind of second- class segregated service.”

Plaintiff Simi Linton, Ph.D., a lifelong New Yorker and power wheelchair user said, “I am very disappointed. We live in a city with few accessible transportation options. The ability to travel throughout the city in a taxi is vital for getting to work, medical appointments, and cultural events. It is particularly important at night and in emergencies. Persons with disabilities deserve access to this system.”

Julia Pinover, Staff Attorney Disability Rights Advocates said, “This is only the first battle of a long war. Our clients have been advocating for taxi accessibility for many years, and it is certain that the disability community will continue to fight – in the courts, in the legislature, and in the streets – for the right to hail a taxi.”

Chris Noel, an individual plaintiff who has been using a wheelchair for nearly ten years said, “I have longed for the ability to hail a taxi cab the way I used to before I became disabled. I would use taxis almost every day if they were accessible. I am very disappointed, but we are determined to continue advocating until everyone can use New York’s taxi fleet.”

Sid Wolinsky, Co-Director of Litigation of Disability Rights Advocates said, “This is only round one of what is certain to be a lengthy fight on many fronts over whether people with disabilities, can be excluded from the use of New York taxis. Plaintiffs will vigorously pursue the claims filed under the Rehabilitation Act and under New York City Human Rights Law. We also have several other lawsuits we could bring to challenge this segregated system. This fight for the most basic rights of seniors and persons with disabilities will continue.”

Julia Pinover of Disability Rights Advocates

Sid Wolinsky of Disability Rights Advocates

Kara Janssen of Disability Rights Advocates

Allegra Fishel of Outten & Golden