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Federal Court: City Does Not Limit Disabled Access To Taxis

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While City Hall officials applauded a federal appeals court ruling Thursday that upholds the Taxi and Limousine Commission's licensing program and says the commission is not limiting access for disabled riders, others don't agree. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.

It can be hard at times for anyone to hail one of the roughly 13,000 yellow cabs in the city. But for wheelchair users, it's especially difficult as only 231 medallions require wheelchair accessibility.

Lifelong New Yorker Simi Linton has used a wheelchair for three decades. She's one of the plaintiffs in a class-action suit against the city.

"Wheelchair users and other people with disabilities do not have access to taxi service in New York," she said. "It is not a privilege. It is a right."

A district court had ruled the Taxi and Limousine Commission must provide more meaningful access for wheelchair users.

But Thursday, a federal appeals court reversed that decision. In a statement, the court said "the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act), as a whole, does not require the New York City taxi industry to provide (wheelchair) accessible taxis."

"I'm outraged," Linton said. "The decisions today against us made me angry of course but also profoundly sad that our rights are not understood."

The Mayor issued a statement saying the ruling "is consistent with common sense and the practical needs of both the taxi industry and the disabled, and we will continue our efforts to assist disabled riders.”

The city still plans to auction 2,000 new medalions for yellow taxis that would have to be wheelchair accessible. It's linked to the plan to permit as many as 18,000 new borough taxis to pick people up off the street above 96th street in Manhattan and in the four other boroughs.

The changes remain on hold while another suit challenges the legality of the approval process. Sid Wolinsky, the lawyer for Simi Linton, said his class action suit is far from finished.

"This is round one of what is going to be a long legal battle," he said. "Precise course is going to be determined in the next couple of weeks."

The city expects to generate $1 billion from the auction of the 2,000 medallions. The revenue remains on hold as well.

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