Guide to New York City Accessible Taxis

Disabled advocates in New York City have invested a lot of time and energy in getting the city to make its infrastructure accessible, and yellow cabs are a huge bone of contention. Unlike London, where black cabs were made accessible decades ago by royal decree, the city has fought every step of the way to keep accessible taxis as rare as unicorns.

In 2003 and 2006, the United Spinal Association, working with disability advocacy groups in the New York City ‘Taxis For All Campaign,’ managed to get the language of the law changed to allow for accessible taxis. New York City soon had 13 wheelchair accessible taxis on the road, but the early models were fraught with problems.

The side-entry Chevrolet Uplander model has had many complaints from people unable to fit in the taxi:

Most of the Uplanders have been phased out now, and the Toyota Siena and Dodge Grand Caravan models are wider.

Today, wheelchair and scooter users can call 311 to request a wheelchair-accessible taxi via the Accessible Dispatch Program. This system links passengers who use wheelchairs with accessible vehicles through a central dispatcher. The dispatcher collects the passenger’s pick-up location and communicates electronically with participating drivers. The closest available driver accepts the dispatch and picks up the passenger. But beware… many drivers hate the dispatch program, and will try to avoid picking up wheelchair passengers (especially if the trip is to the outer boroughs).

Some drivers of wheelchair taxis will give you their business cards or phone numbers, and urge you to call them privately to arrange in advance for a ride. You may be tempted, as this will eliminate the problem of waiting for an available driver in your area, but know that they do so in order to avoid fees associated with legitimate taxi fares, and possibly charge you more to boot. (Also, such rides would not be recorded in demographic information about the number of trips taken by wheelchair passengers, making it seem like we don’t use the accessible taxis as much as we really do.)

The fare for an accessible cab trip is the same as the metered rates for all New York City yellow taxis. The Accessible Dispatch System is for passengers who use wheelchairs or scooters only; if a non-disabled person attempts to use the system but no wheelchair is in evidence when the cab arrives, they will be fined.

There is some hope on the horizon; New York City politicians are deliberating the winner of the Taxi for Tomorrow contest, which will decide the model of taxicab New York City uses for the next ten years. The requirements were originally supposed to include wheelchair accessibility, but only one of the three finalists included it in their default model. Should the vote go to Karsan, New York City wheelchair users will soon enjoy the magical fairyland of accessible transportation whenever we want.


Karsan's Taxi of Tomorrow entry

One Response

  1. Miriam August 31, 2012 at 2:42 am #

    Hello, my name is Miriam, I am from Spain and I am going to trip to NY next week, I need the phone number of the accesible taxis, I use an electric weelchair. Can you tell me something about the bus and metro? It´s very important because I can´t find the phone number of the accesible taxis please, sorry my english is very bad, thanks a lot!

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