Elected Officials Announce Legislative Package to Improve MTA Access

for People with Disabilities


May 8th, 2008

New York City — Assembly Member Micah Z. Kellner, State Senator Thomas K. Duane, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Assembly Member Michele Titus, Chair of the Assembly Taskforce on People with Disabilities, and Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal, were joined today by advocates representing thousands of New Yorkers with disabilities to announce a package of bills that have been introduced in the New York State legislature to reform the way that the MTA responds to the needs of transit riders with disabilities.

The first bill (A.10734-A/S.7817) creates the MTA Riders Council for People with Disabilities, a 14-member appointed council will be geographically diverse representing riders who use NYC Transit, the Long Island Rail Road, and Metro North systems. The Council will have a non-voting seat on the MTA Board and will monitor all aspects of the MTA and make recommendations as to how to improve services. The Assembly is expected to take up this bill on Monday. The second bill (A.10420/S.7348) requires daily inspections of elevators, escalators, bus lifts, and other accessibility features in MTA facilities and establishes documentation requirements and oversight for their repair.

“The MTA has been failing the disabled community when it comes to meeting our transportation needs,” said Assembly Member Micah Kellner, who has cerebral palsy. “In 2007, I requested documents for eight elevators in ADA-compliant passenger stations to better understand how the MTA maintains features like elevators. What I found was an unacceptable number of outages, repeated breakdowns in the same station for the same problem, a disturbing lack of paper record-keeping, and a poor track record of fixing problems quickly. This is no small matter. When an escalator, elevator, or wheelchair lift is inoperable it means that a person with a disability is stranded.”

“The list of reasons why these changes are necessary is endless. For example, even the new, improved subway announcements – let alone the old garbled ones – are hard for the hearing impaired to understand,” said Senator Tom Duane. “Platform gaps on the LIRR threaten the safety of the visually impaired and wheelchair users. The recent closure of station agent booths in the subways has only worsened the situation for disabled riders who are able to overcome other obstacles to access that system, and these are only a few of the problems. The MTA needs to hear from people with disabilities and learn from their experiences. The best way to do this is to correct the lack of representation of people with disabilities on the board of the MTA itself.”

“For years, the MTA’s failure to carry out mandated inspections, as required by the building code, left frail and disabled riders in a situation resembling Russian Roulette,” said Borough President Scott Stringer. "I believe the agency’s new leadership wants to make the system safe and reliable for people with disabilities – and this legislation will provide a framework for doing that. I urge the swift passage of both bills.” In 2006, Borough President Stringer released his report, The State of Repairs, which found that 74% of all elevators in ADA-compliant stations did not receive their mandated annual inspection and that the average elevator in an ADA-compliant station was out for 11 days.

“Seldom a day goes by where we do not receive a phone call or email message from someone who has had a negative experience with the MTA,” says Lawrence Carter-Long, the Director of Advocacy of Disabilities Network of NYC. ” A breakdown in, or lack of transportation options for people with disabilities affects every other area of our lives – if you can’t get to or from your residence, place of business, or health care provider, your quality of life is diminished. Rather than solve the transportation problems faced by New Yorkers with disabilities, the MTA seems more inclined to add to them. These bills provide a necessary and overdue remedy the MTA has been unwilling to provide on its own.”

“We believe holding the MTA to greater accountability on elevator and escalator repairs as well as the creation of a MTA Riders Council for People with Disabilities can only improve the accessibility of NYC Transit and assure riders with disabilities that it is safe to ride the subways,” said Carr Massi, President of Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York.

“BCID has been requesting a seat at the MTA table as a representative of the community of people with disabilities for many years,” said Marvin Wasserman, Executive Director of Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (BCID). “The passage of this legislation will guarantee full representation from the whole community of people with disabilities, not just a select few working within the community.”

“Appropriate access for people with disabilities is a civil right and a human right. It is time the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] applied to mass transit,” said Janice Schacter, Chair of the Hearing Access Program (a consortium of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the League for the Hard of Hearing, and Hearing Loss Association of America).

“Hearing directly from people with disabilities through the proposed MTA Riders Council for People with Disabilities is a needed reform. The MTA needs to address the problems of accessibility, signage, and staff training to make transportation in NYC truly available to all,” said Nancy D. Miller, Executive Director of VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

“Access to public transportation is critical for people with disabilities to live fruitful and productive lives and it is essential that public transportation is accessible, reliable, and safe all the time. We appreciate the efforts of Assemblyman Kellner and Senator Duane in support of the needs of NYC citizens with disabilities,” said Susan Constantino, President and CEO of Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State.

“Guide Dog Users of New York is primarily eager to have consistent tactile edge markings at all subway stations. These small raised domes warn blind and visually-impaired people when they are nearing the platform edge and can save lives,” said David De Porte, President of Guide Dog Users of New York.

“We strongly support the quick enactment of both bills. An MTA Riders Council for People with Disabilities will give our community direct and sustained input to the MTA Board of Directors about making its entire system more friendly to wheelchair users and other aging and disabled passengers. Making subway elevator and escalator maintenance a higher priority is essential and long overdue. There is zero access to the subway system for our wheelchair-using members if elevators are always broken,” said Terence J. Moakley, spokesperson for the United Spinal Association.

“The NYC Chapter of the National MS Society fully supports legislation to create the MTA Riders Council for people with disabilities. Our members experience a variety of challenges using mass transit, including inaccessible subway stations, non-working elevators, inadequate signage, and dangerously large gaps between platforms and trains. As a result of these problems, people living with MS often cannot get to work or visit their families. It is crucial that people with disabilities have a voice on the MTA,” said Robin Einbinder, Executive Vice president of Programs and Services at the NYC Chapter of the National MS Society.

“We have long called for the MTA to increase elevator/escalator inspection, repairs and maintenance, as well as requiring a higher degree of accountability. We believe they also need to improve their communication with riders. Many passengers with disabilities refuse to use the subways because they are fearful of being stuck when an elevator/escalator is out of service,” said Edith M. Prentiss of the 504 Democratic Club.

“When people with disabilities believe they are able to travel safely and expediently on the subways, this saves the City and the MTA money. Both of these initiatives will help to increase the number of wheelchair users who ride buses and trains with confidence, thereby decreasing reliance on Access-A-Ride,” said Joe Rapporport of the Taxis For All Campaign.

“Elevator and escalator outages rank near the top among the myriad of barriers faced by persons with disabilities when attempting to use our mass transit system,” said Michael Harris, Executive Director of the Disabled Riders Coalition. “Sadly, the MTA has historically failed to recognize that we are fare-paying customers and deserve the same consideration as our non-disabled peers. Not only will this legislation force the MTA to address the issues of elevator and escalator maintenance, more importantly it will finally give riders with disabilities a seat at the table. I look forward to being in Albany on Monday where I hope to watch the Assembly pass this important legislation.”


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