The streets of New York City and the taxicabs that roam them have been an accessibility battleground the last few years. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was infamously quoted in mainstream news publications as saying wheelchair-accessible vehicles gobble up gasoline, have bad suspensions and are uncomfortable for able-bodied passengers. Bloomberg furthermore justified his apparent stance against accessibility by adding that hailing a cab and getting into one is very difficult for wheelchair users to accomplish, anyway.
“It’s still an issue,” says Dave Hubbard, executive director of NMEDA, about the topic of accessibility for commercial vehicles. The fight between consumers and New York City officials did make some people more aware of accessibility issues, he adds, “especially in the New York area and the New York market. It’s also spread to other markets as well: They’re going through it in Chicago and a number of others, so I don’t think the pressure is going to let up in the community of people with disabilities. It will continue on.”
How does Hubbard expect the issue to work out? “Optimally, I think where you want to get to is the universal vehicle, basically a vehicle that works for everybody. Sooner or later, somebody is going to develop one, and hopefully the taxi fleets will adopt those.”