Dear Governor, All means All! Make Ridesharing Accessible for Disabled New Yorkers

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Julie Farrar

Governor Cuomo has said on multiple occasions that he wants “to bring ridesharing to all New Yorkers”. However, the legislation he is promoting as part of his budget fails miserably to achieve this goal. All means ALL and the governor’s plan leaves out disabled people. It is 27 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed. It is horrifying that we still have politicians like Governor Cuomo making allowances for inaccessible transportation systems. The lack of accessible transportation in the State of New York threatens the lives & independence of disabled people across the state. Without transportation, disabled people cannot participate into our communities; we cannot visit family & friends, go to work, buy groceries or fully live our lives.

As a disabled person living in upstate New York, who does not drive, I find it extremely troubling and offensive to see the state push for yet another transportation solution that is inaccessible. Governor Cuomo is telling Disabled New Yorkers to wait. We have waited long enough, if access isn’t there from the beginning it will never be there.

When the ADA was passed in 1990 Amtrak had 20 years to make itself accessible. Nearly thirty years later, Amtrak is still out of compliance in many areas. If the State does not have the political will to require accessibility from the start there is little chance it ever will. The State claims ridesharing companies will stay away if access is required. However, when politicians and the law require it, as in Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago, Uber and Lyft do provide accessible rides.

We have enough inaccessible options, and the existing accessible option is a para-transit system that even our politicians admit is broken, underfunded and poorly conceived. In Albany, I am required to call in at least 24 hours in advance for a ride. I then must call back the night before to confirm my ride. I am allowed 5 minutes to get to the vehicle when it arrives. STAR paratransit is allowed to be 25 minutes late, before I can even call to inquire about their arrival time. During “peak hours”, I can expect to take upwards of 2 hours to travel from work to home because vehicles can accommodate up to 6 passengers. People are often picked up and dropped off according to a route that is determined by the paratransit company. Even after confirming rides I have experienced a ride to work with no ride home because reservations did not confirm both trips. Although my co-worker offered me a ride home, it wasn’t possible because my power chair could not fit in his car.

Members of the Disability Community are accessibility experts. We know what the issues are we don’t need to study them. While the governor’s taskforce is studying us, he is proposing allowing ridesharing companies including Uber and Lyft, to freely discriminate against disabled New Yorkers.

Disabled New Yorkers would love to have accessible ridesharing! If the governor wants ridesharing for all New Yorkers he needs to make sure that it actually serves ALL New Yorkers. Without accessibility, ridesharing is just another way the state is failing the Disability Community!