United Spinal Calls for Wheelchair Accessibility of Entire Taxi Fleet in Nation's Capital

Jun 18, 2014, 09:10 ET from United Spinal Association

NEW YORK, June 18, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- United Spinal Association today urged the DC Taxi Commission and the DC City Council to more effectively address wheelchair access to taxis and other public transportation in our Nation's capital––vital to the quality of life of people with disabilities.

On June 12, the DC Taxi Commission and Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA) reached a deal that could amount to roughly 150 accessible taxis in DC by 2016––only 2-3% of its fleet.

"Three percent is not nearly enough. DC's disability community, as well as its visitors who use wheelchairs, have a right to access all modes of transportation," said Carol Tyson, United Spinal's senior policy associate and Vice-Chair of the DC Taxi Commission's Disability Advisory Committee. 

United Spinal recognizes the efforts of the Commission and WMATA to increase the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles in the District and save the city money in the process, but calls for additional steps to ensure greater accessibility for the entire fleet.

This includes:

  • Increasing the number and availability of wheelchair accessible vehicles in operation beyond this program
  • Ensuring wheelchair accessible vehicles are in service throughout the week and evening hours
  • Permitting independent owners/operators to participate in this program after completing accessibility training
  • Ensuring transparency, accountability and oversight by sharing program plans with the public

The DC Taxi Commission's Disability Advisory Committee––which was mandated by the DC Taxi Act of 2012 and is comprised of city agency officials, disability advocates and taxi industry representatives–– recently submitted recommendations for making the District's taxi fleet 100 percent accessible.

The Disability Advisory Committee also suggested that digital dispatch service companies, be required to offer accessible taxis and sedans, and contribute to any District funds that would be used to increase accessible taxi and sedan service. Digital dispatch regulation should include Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), e.g. Uber, Lyft and Sidecar.

The TNC recommendations not only reflect the views of United Spinal, but are increasingly reflected in advocate testimony from around the country.

United Spinal also called for the Commission and City Council to prioritize accessibility for all District residents, workers and visitors in any reorganization of transit agencies.   

United Spinal testified at the proposed Transportation Network Companies and Transportation Reorganization bill hearings in early May and June respectively, advocating for nondiscrimination and accessibility standards for TNCs.

TNCs do not offer wheelchair accessible service, and are not explicitly required to uphold non-discrimination or accessibility standards similar to those required of taxis.

"United Spinal believes inadequate access to transportation creates barriers to employment, education, and true community integration, and contributes to high unemployment and poverty rates. Inadequate access can also have serious consequences when personal or local emergencies arise," said Tyson. 

Adults with disabilities are twice as likely as those without disabilities to have inadequate transportation (31 percent versus 13 percent). According to the US Census Bureau, in 2012, only 31.5% of the District's working age people with disabilities living in the community were employed. More than 38% percent live in poverty. 

About United Spinal Association
United Spinal is a national 501(c) (3) nonprofit membership organization formed in 1946 by paralyzed veterans and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Americans with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D), including multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, ALS and post-polio. It played a significant role in writing the Americans with Disabilities Act, and made important contributions to the Fair Housing Amendments Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. Membership is free and is open to all individuals with SCI/D. United Spinal was instrumental in getting New York City to create sidewalk curb ramps and accessible public transportation that has been used as a model for many United States cities.

Media contact:
Ahvi Spindell                                                                 
Spindell Media Relations, LLC
United Spinal Association                                             
(212) 580-4567                                                                 
Twitter @ahvispin

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SOURCE United Spinal Association