The Big Apple will host a fleet of new taxi minivans starting October 2013.
The Nissan NV200 provides amenities for the fast-moving urban dweller such as 12-volt electrical outlets and two USB ports; odor-reducing and antimicrobial gray pleather seats; backseat air-conditioning control and a large moonroof — but lacks in the handicapped-accessible department.
The new cabs beat out the former yellow cab king, Ford, with a model that was deemed in a press conference last May by Mayor Bloomberg as the “ideal candidate” for what New Yorkers need, but he wasn’t thinking about the commuters who can’t rely just on their own two feet.
The Nissan NV200 does have a wheelchair-accessible option, but information from nyc.gov suggests that option would raise the cost of the cabs substantially from the already hefty $29,700.
Robert Slayton, who suffers from a rare spinal cord disease, wrote in a letter to the editors at NewYorkDailyNews.com that the seats in the Nissan NV200 are too high to bring a wheelchair up and lock it in a convenient or timely manner. They are also not manufactured with ramps.
A cab that is equipped with wheelchair-accessible features is the MV1, another minivan that is made by a Florida-based company called the Vehicle Production Group.
After a series of “roll-in” protests in the Flatiron district, the American Disabled Association approved the MV1 when held to the highest wheelchair-accessible standards. From production, it is made with ramps and wheelchair lock-in grooves.
Following the public protests, some taxi drivers have purchased the MV1.
The Vehicle Production Group’s CEO, Fred Drasner, told the ADA that he anticipates sales will increase to thousands of models flying through all five boroughs by the end of the year.
The Nissan NV200 is not, however, entirely hopeless for being transformed into a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
It is equipped with grab-handles to help when entering the vehicle and — with an extra cost of $6,000 added to the New York International Auto Show’s standard price of $29,700 — a four-wheel wheelchair lock-in and ramp can be installed in the center of the cab.
According to Gov. Cuomo’s press office, 2,000 cab medallions will be given to only wheelchair-accessible vehicles, but at the end of the day that means only 2,000 out of 13,000, or 15 percent of the taxis roaming the streets.
Joe Rappaport, a representative for the Taxis for All Campaign, said this strategy only creates a dispatch-like system that treats disabled citizens as separate, not equal.
“The key question is,” Rappaport said. “Why would the city claim it’s doing something innovative with the ‘Taxi for Tomorrow’ campaign when it’s really going back in time?”
Rappaport pointed to the fact that London has had a wheelchair-acccessible taxi fleet for years that New York could adapt.
“The city is about to sell $1 billion worth of cabs,” he said. “Isn’t there a way of using even a small percentage of the profits for equally accessible cabs?”
The TFAC has been battling for disability rights against the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission for over a year now, stating that federal and state laws for equal rights have been violated through the inability of cab accessibility.
A hearing on the case will be held April 11, in Manhattan.