Judge Approves Historic Settlement: NYC Taxicab Accessibility to Dramatically Increase

NEW YORK, NY – September 16, 2014 A federal judge today gave final approval to a settlement, the first of its kind nationwide, that will make New York’s yellow taxi fleet the most accessible in the country and one of the most disability-friendly in the world.

Judge George Daniels issued the following statement: “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 in this city since Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. It is an act of a city that equally values all of its residents and visitors. I commend the plaintiffs and their lawyers for their persistence, and the mayor and the city’s representatives for the good judgment that today’s agreement represents. It makes us a better city. It is simply the right thing to do.”

Under the terms of this settlement, New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission proposed new rules, which were passed this year, mandating the phase-in of accessible yellow taxicabs. As a result, by 2020, fifty percent (50%) of New York’s yellow taxis will be accessible to men, women, and children who use wheelchairs.

New York City is setting the standard for taxi accessibility nationwide, and the effects can already be seen. In response to this settlement, the New York State legislature recently passed a law mandating that fifty percent (50%) of the City’s green Boro Taxi fleet also be made accessible to wheelchair users.

The settlement is the result of a class action lawsuit filed in 2011 by attorneys Disability Rights Advocates challenging the inaccessibility of the City’s yellow taxi fleet. At the time, just 1.8% of New York’s yellow cabs were accessible to people with mobility disabilities. The case was brought on behalf of a coalition of people with disabilities, including Taxis for All Campaign, United Spinal Association, 504 Democratic Club, and Disabled in Action. The disability groups were also represented by Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton.

Ronnie Raymond, a longtime advocate for accessible taxi service, stated that “Reliable, accessible transportation will change my life. With a wheelchair accessible fleet I would no longer relegated to staying home or spending hours trying to get somewhere that takes everyone else 20 minutes. Wheelchair accessible taxis and liveries will significantly change my life, and will help thousands of people like me.”

Simi Linton, Ph.D., a lifelong New Yorker and power wheelchair user, said: “Having an accessible taxi fleet is essential to me. My livelihood, my well-being and the well-being of my family depend on being able to use taxis.”

Julia Pinover-Kupiec of Disability Rights Advocates summarized the importance of the settlement, saying: “The approval of the settlement agreement affirms that all New Yorkers should have a right to public transit, and sets the stage for an era of greater accessibility.”

Disability Rights Advocates is a nonprofit legal center that recently won a court case against the City of New York because of the City’s failure to provide adequate disaster planning for people with disabilities. The same law firm also recently won a court order forcing the New York Board of Elections to remove multiple access barriers at its voter poll sites.