New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is proposing a 30-cent surcharge on taxi rides as part of his plan to make half the city’s taxi fleet wheelchair accessible by 2020. The mayor’s proposal will go before the Taxi and Limousine Commission for a vote April 30, six days after a public hearing on the plan.

Two Cornell University experts on disability, accessibility and ergonomic design are available for comment:

LaWanda H. Cook is a training specialist at the Northeast ADA Center of Cornell’s ILR School:

David Feathers, professor of design and environmental analysis at Cornell, conducts ergonomics research focused on inclusive design of spaces and accessible products. Feathers also directs the Digital Anthropometry and Biomechanics Lab for Inclusive Ergonomic Design at Cornell:

Cook says:

“To date, people who use wheelchairs for mobility have either been refused services or required to transfer from their wheelchairs into taxis – putting these patrons and drivers at risk for injury. The availability of safe, accessible taxi system means more people with disabilities will be able to travel independently and with friends and family members, increasing the number of patrons from whom drivers collect fares. Also, reliance on the inconvenient and segregated paratransit system may decrease, saving the city money. “While public and private entities cannot charge people with disabilities for meeting their specific accommodation needs, all businesses have to budget for the possible accommodation needs of their customers and clients and these costs are undoubtedly passed along to all – with and without disabilities. Everyone should care about this issue. It is not, and should not be presented as an ‘us' and ‘them' situation. Anyone who takes a regular cab today may find that he or she needs an accessible taxi tomorrow."Feathers says:

“More accessible cabs means more options for community involvement, new accessible options for tourists – with associated increases in tourist revenue – and increased flexibility for riders.

“An increase in accessible cabs can potentially reduce barriers allowing riders attain regular and consistent medical check-ups, visit friends and family, as well as acquire and retain employment.

“By comparison, all London taxis are accessible, which are available and easy to use for both persons with functional impairments and those who do not.”

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