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Old 04-28-2017, 04:22 AM
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Soapbox Dual class-action suits filed against NYC subway's lack of wheelchair accessibility

For Immediate Release: April 25, 2017 Media Contacts: Michelle Caiola:
(212) 644-8644, Sid Wolinsky: (212) 644-8644, Daniel Brown: (212)
634-3095, Jessica Powers (646) 428-4481 (CIDNY)
New York, NY—April 25, 2017—Two class action lawsuits were filed today
against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), accusing it of
systematically excluding people with disabilities. One suit, filed in New
York state court, is the first case to ever challenge the fact that over
350 of New York City’s subway stations are unusable by people who can’t
traverse stairs, making it the least accessible subway system in the
nation. This affects hundreds of thousands of New York City residents and
visitors such as those using wheelchairs, with arthritis, or having
certain heart or lung conditions. It alleges that the MTA’s failure to
install elevators in stations throughout the city is in flagrant
violation of the New York City Human Rights Law. The second suit, filed
in federal court, accuses the MTA of not maintaining the few elevators
that do exist, leading to frequent breakdowns. Both suits were filed
by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a national nonprofit legal center,
on behalf of a broad coalition of disability groups, including Bronx
Independent Living Services, Brooklyn Center for Independence of the
Disabled, Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York, Disabled In
Action of Metropolitan New York, Harlem Independent Living Center, New
York StateWide Senior Action Council, Inc., and three individuals who use
wheelchairs for mobility. The law firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton
LLP is co-counseling with DRA. New York City has the largest, most
used subway system in the country. Yet almost 80% of its stations are
not accessible, virtually making the system unusable to residents and
visitors to the city who use wheelchairs, walkers, scooters or are
otherwise unable to traverse flights of stairs(see map of New York City’s
inaccessible subway stations). This exclusion is devastating to people
with disabilities. Moreover, the inaccessibility is heightened when
the few existing elevators are frequently unusable. The suit charges
that 25 subway station elevators are out of service on any given day,
sometimes for long periods of time, and the elevators are frequently
littered with trash and urine. The MTA also fails to provide effective
notice of outages or offer alternatives to those who rely on the
elevators. Plaintiff Sasha Blair-Goldensohn’s trip to work requires a
transfer and four elevators because the direct route is not accessible.
He remarked, “The lack of elevators doubles my commute time, at best.
And if just one elevator is out of service, I’m stuck. I never know when
I’ll have to ask strangers to carry me up the stairs in my wheelchair.
It’s nerve-wracking, dangerous and degrading.” “Both the lack of
elevators and the frequent breakdowns make wheelchair users like myself
very vulnerable,” stated plaintiff Dustin Jones. “And to make matters
worse, when an elevator is non-operative, there are rarely any warnings
or announcements in stations and no contingency plan to assist people in
my situation.” Plaintiff Chris Pangilinan, observed “The very limited
number of stations has complicated every aspect of my life; from where I
live, to the extra time for travel. I want the New York City subway to
achieve the same level of accessibility that I have seen in every other
major city in the U.S.” New York City’s subway system is the least
accessible in the country; approximately 360 of New York’s 472 service
line stations lack vertical accessibility. Michelle Caiola, DRA’s
Director of Litigation, said “the MTA’s actions are both short-sighted
and a disgrace to New York. Subway station inaccessibility does not just
affect people who use wheelchairs, but also everyone unable to use
steps. It is dangerous for older people and those who resort to carrying
baby strollers precariously up and down stairs. Unfortunately, the MTA
has been derelict in its duty to ensure the basic right to its
transportation for all. Its disregard and negligence should not be
tolerated any longer.” “People who use wheelchairs or other assistive
devices have few options for transportation in the city. This makes it
difficult to carry out everyday activities such as work, shopping, and
medical appointments, and leads to social isolation,” explains Brett
Eisenberg, Executive Director of the Bronx Independent Living Center
(BILS). “The options are even further limited in the boroughs outside
Manhattan.” Christina Curry, Executive Director of the Harlem
Independent Living Center explains, “At HILC, we focus on getting
equality, accessibility and accommodation for individuals with
disabilities. Use of the subway system provides an important part of
that mission and provides an independence that cannot be overstated.”
“New York City wouldn’t be New York City without the subways, but without
the subways, people with disabilities find it tough to take in all the
city has to offer,” said Joseph G. Rappaport, Brooklyn Center for
Independence of the Disabled’s (BCID) Executive Director. “Just getting
to a job or from one neighborhood to another becomes an
incredible hassle, which is why we’ve joined these lawsuits.” Susan
Dooha, Executive Director of Center for Independence of the Disabled, New
York (CIDNY), says, “Subway accessibility is about more than just getting
around for people with disabilities. It’s about dignity and respect for
our civil rights. It’s about getting to work and living in the
community. So long after the passage of the ADA and the New York City
Human Rights law, we should not have to go to court to insist that subway
elevators work and are safe and clean. It’s time for the MTA to obey the
law.” “At the MTA’s current rate of elevator installation, it would
take the MTA more than 100 years before 100% accessibility would be
achieved. Clearly, we can’t wait that long for equal access rights,”
says Anthony Trocchia, President of Disabled in Action (DIA). Thestate
suit (PDF) demands that the MTA undertake a concentrated effort to
install elevators at stations over a reasonable period of years.
Thefederal suit (PDF) calls for a plan to address the dangerous rate of
breakdowns and the lack of contingency planning for closures. A copy of
this press release and both suits is available at
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