Finding a Wheelchair-Accessible Taxi in the Big Apple


Spend some time trying to navigate traffic in Manhattan and you’ll know why New York City is home to 13,237 branded Yellow Cabs. It’s a grid best navigated by a professional. And the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which owns the fleet, takes pride in the quantity and quality of its vehicles. Take its new line of Nissan NV200 minivans. Dubbed the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” they are required to have custom climate controls for each seat, a transparent roof so patrons can enjoy city views, and laptop power outlets.

There is, however, one glaring design flaw: The NV200 is not equipped with a wheelchair ramp.

In fact, only 231 New York cabs (just 2 percent) are required by the city to be equipped with ramps for wheelchair accessibility, reports New Mobility (Aug. 2011). For urban dwellers and tourists who use power wheelchairs that don’t fold up, or for those who can’t transfer out of their chairs, this means that up to 100 cabs will pass by before an accessible one comes along.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority operates Access-A-Ride, a city-funded public transportation service solely for disabled travelers, but the program is not designed for the modern urban businessperson or tourist. Instead of flagging down a cabbie or calling to arrange a pickup, first-time riders must apply for eligibility at least five days ahead of time, get assessed in person, and then, once they’re certified, renew their status regularly.

Outraged advocate New York State Assemblyman Micah Kellner has lodged a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice and brought forward legislation to update the city’s faulty accessibility policies. He has also employed the help of leading disability rights litigator Sid Wolinsky, who argued in district court that operating minivan cabs without ramps violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

James Weisman, senior vice president and general counsel for the United Spinal Association, tells New Mobility that the outcome of this street fight has national implications. “Unlike Vegas,” he says, “what happens in New York doesn’t stay there. If Gotham makes its Yellow Cab fleet accessible, every city will follow.”

This post was originally published by the Utne Reader.


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Photo from craigCloutier via flickr


Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener6 years ago

Ouch... the forgotten people!

Sheri P.
Sheri P6 years ago

wow...seems like a lot of red tape for a wheelchair-bound person to get a cab in NYC...

Meta R.
Meta Reid6 years ago

I'm not sure where San Francisco is on cabs, but I know for sure that all the trolleys and buses in San Francisco are accessible. There city works incredibly well. Why not model San Francisco?

Sharon Beth Long
Sharon Beth Long6 years ago

As a New York City person I can tell you that Access A Ride has been a disaster. The dispatcher is in Texas! The vans do not always come on time or not at all. Two years ago I heard that each ride costs $60(!) prompting city officials to look into car services for some clients. They now do not provide door to door services for everybody but instead use some van stops. And --it takes a lot longer than five days to apply and be accepted. It requires a lot of paperwork including forms filled out be doctors. Furthermore each ride is $2.25, the same as the regular public transportation fare for these mainly low income disabled people and there was talk two years ago of raising the fare to six dollars!

Danuta Watola
Danuta W6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Anne G.
Anne G6 years ago

I remember having problems getting any taxi in N.Y.C., can't imagine trying to find one with wheelchair accessability. It just goes to show where their priorities are when custom climate controls for each seat are a major concern, if they are ordering a new fleet anyway, why not have all the necessities and not just all the luxuries?

naomi cohen
naomi cohen6 years ago

this is good news. people who are wheel-chair bound must be able to have the freedom of traveling anywhere by public transportation.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago


Dave D.
Dave D6 years ago

The situation is not much better in Sydney Australia, And also Vancouver, BC. There are accessible cabs in both places, just not enough of them. Sometimes they're all off the road for the night, which doesn't do a wheelchair traveler any good. On top of that, the minivan-based taxis in Vancouver don't even fit in as I am to call or they are to low. I either have to ride bent forward or 45° to the side with my caregiver holding my head–I'm 6 foot three. At least some of the accessible cabs in Australia had sufficient headroom in that they use Toyota hi aces which we do not import into North America. With the raised roof they had plenty of room.

Rosie Lopez
Rosie Lopez6 years ago

thanks for sharing