A couple of months ago I injured my foot and was treating myself, in a manner of speaking, to a ride on each of the elevators at the Brooklyn Bridge /City Hall subway station. I waited with a young man in a wheel chair and as we speculated as to whether the elevator was working, I suddenly thought, “How does he get upstairs if the stupid thing is broken, as it so often is? I could limp upstairs with a broken toe, but he really would be stuck.”
So I asked him what he does, and he said that he goes back downstairs and takes the subway another stop or two (or more) until he finds a station with a working elevator. Then he gets back to where he has to go, some way or another: by wheeling himself if it’s close enough (from Canal Street to Chambers Street for example), or he finds a bus stop and waits for a wheel chair accessible bus with room for him, or sometimes he just goes home. This, of course, can only add a lot of stress to a handicapped person’s life and makes commuting to a job even more tenuous. Unfortunately, the challenge to fill in the gaps in accessible public transport remain. The Mayor of New York recently announced that the taxi of the future, as discussed in this story by Ben Adler in Next American City, (relationship disclosure – Ben is my son), does not have to accommodate wheel chairs, representing an opportunity missed. London is leading the way by example – 100 percent of taxis in London are accessible. On the other hand, most of us remember when the city buses did not accomdate wheelchairs and there were no elevators in the subways at all- evidence that progress is being made.