Apr 26, 2012

NYC asks court to reverse requirement of accessible cabs

News and Insight 

NYC asks appeals court to reverse taxi handicap access ruling

4/19/2012COMMENTS (0)
NEW YORK, April 19 (Reuters) - New York City asked a federal appeals court on Wednesday to strike down acontroversial order that the city's taxi authority was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Michael Cardozo, the city's Corporation Counsel, told the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that the lower court had misread the city's obligations under Title II, section A of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"We have not prohibited anyone in any way from providing accessible cabs," Cardozo said, drawing a line between the city's regulation of buses and its regulation of the taxi industry, which is composed of private operators.
A lawyer for disabilities advocates said District Judge George Daniels had gotten it right when he found in December 2011 that the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) was subject to the federal disabilities provision because the authority has an active regulatory role in maintaining and overseeing the taxi fleet -- thus acting as a public entity providing a public service.
"The TLC controls every single aspect of taxi cab service," attorney Sid Wolinsky said, from the "stitching on the seats to the decals."
New York City's taxi fleet is six times larger than the one in Los Angeles and grants three million rides a week, Wolinsky said. Only 232 of the city's 13,237 cabs are wheelchair-accessible.
In his opinion, Daniels ordered New York City to create a plan to improve access and -- pending his approval of such a plan -- required that any new taxis added to the fleet be wheelchair accessible.
The appeals court in March granted the city's request to temporarily freeze judge Daniels' controversial order.
The Taxi commission was on Wednesday in the process of holding a vote on a plan to allow livery cabs to accept street hails in all five boroughs.
Wednesday's appeals court panel -- judges Amalya Kearse, Dennis Jacobs and Peter Hall -- said it would issue a decision at a later date.

Apr 17, 2012

Ethical Issues in Suing for Missing ADA Accommodation

NY Times
Disabilities Act Prompts Flood of Suits Some Cite as Unfair

A small cadre of lawyers, some from out of state, are using New York City’s age and architectural quirkiness as the foundation for a flood of lawsuits citing violations of the  Americans With Disabilities Act.
The plaintiffs typically collect $500 for each suit, and each plaintiff can be used several times over. The lawyers, meanwhile, make several thousands of dollars, because the civil rights law entitles them to legal fees from the noncompliant businesses.
The practice has set off a debate about whether the lawsuits are a laudable effort, because they force businesses to make physical improvements to comply with the disabilities act, or simply a form of ambulance-chasing, with no one actually having been injured.

Apr 16, 2012

Taxi Accessibility - Next court date 4/19/2012

NY's Channel 13: 

Taxi of Tomorrow May Be Here, But Accessibility Is an Issue Today  [click here for the video]

Bloomberg and Taxi Commissioner David Yassky have said that the new taxis can be retrofitted to allow for wheelchairs, and Carlos Ghosn, chief executive officer of Nissan, said the cab “has been designed so it can be modified for wheelchair users, without compromising the integrity of the vehicle,” reported Gothamist. Even so, disability-rights advocates say the taxis are still far from ideal, and New York City has missed a chance to be truly 100 percent accessible.

On Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg and Nissan presented the shiny new Taxi of Tomorrow to New Yorkers over wine and “fancy snacks” at the New York International Auto Show. Set to roll out in 2013, the Nissan NV200 taxis will give people’s vision a boost with overhead reading lights and their hearing a break with “low-annoyance” horns, but as for addressing mobility —they are not wheelchair-accessible.

“We want access and we want it sooner than later,” said Joseph Rappaport, who advises the Taxis For All Campaign.

Taxis For All Chair chair Edith Prentiss called the Nissan the “taxi of yesterday” in a statement. At the unveiling on Tuesday night, several activists protested the Taxi of Tomorrow. According to DNAinfo, one advocate, Ronnie Raymond, carried a sign that read “all taxis should be accessible.”

“It is interesting that when they plan something like this, they don’t invite any disabled people at all,” Raymond said to DNAinfo. “It’s sad.”

In January 2011, Disability Rights Advocates, a non-profit legal center, filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission on behalf of a group of advocacy organizations that had been fighting for a 100 percent accessible taxi fleet for many years. Federal Judge George B. Daniels ruled in late December that the city’s taxi fleet is overwhelmingly inaccessible, thus constituting discrimination against people with disabilities. The judge ordered the city to come up with a plan to “provide meaningful access to taxicab service for disabled wheelchair-bound passengers.”

In October, 2011, the United States Department of Justice filed a brief supporting Disability Rights Advocates’ position that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires the New York taxi fleet to be wheelchair-accessible.

But the city disagrees with the judge’s ruling, and has filed an appeal. The plaintiffs and the city appear in court again on April 19.  at 9:15 AM at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, ,  (500 Pearl St, WC entry 200 Worth St, Ceremonial room on the 9th floor).

This Court appearance will be on time and last about about an hour (If the
judges ask a lot of questions). Although we're in front of the judges at 10,
we recommend you be there by about 9:15 to get through security.

Of the roughly 13,000 cabs  in New York’s fleet,  about 230 are wheelchair accessible.

NYS EPIC drug program to be restored

EPIC Restored

The 2012 N.Y. Budget Law includes a provision restoring the EPIC program, which provides supplemental prescription drug coverage to seniors with Medicare Part D.  The well-loved EPIC program was gutted in the 2011 budget, but mostly restored to its previous state.  However, this change will only take effect in 2013, so the Empire Justice Center's advice regarding the EPIC cuts continues to apply for the rest of 2012.

Trilby De Jung of the Empire Justice Center wrote a comprehensive summary of the healthcare-related changes in the 2012 Budget Law.  To see a comparison of the EPIC rules for 2012 and 2013, and some tips for helping seniors get through 2012, see this article by Valerie Bogart of Selfhelp.

Thanks to Luda Demikhovskaya for this information.

Apr 2, 2012

City Council bills to notify the disabled

From Speaker Christine Quinn:

This past week, the City Council passed a package of bills that will help make our streets safer and more accessible for those often most affected by these changes – the blind, the visually impaired, and people requiring the use of a wheelchair.  The first bill would provide for Accessible Pedestrian Signals (audible walk/don't walk signals) at some intersections; the second bill would require Dept. of Transportation posting of major transportaiton projects, bicycle lanes, and more. The third bill would require the taxi passenger's bill of right to include the right to ask for a wheelchair-accessible cab.