This week marks the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but many say MTA service cuts are a step backward for disabled riders.
Eliminating interborough bus service, replacing wheelchair-accessible buses with privately-run and inaccessible commuter vans and cuts to the Access-A-Ride program for the elderly and disabled are all making it more difficult for disabled riders to get around the city, said Edith Prentiss, a Washington Heights resident who uses a wheelchair.
“The MTA is setting out to totally dismantle accessible transportation,” Prentiss said. “It’s getting bad.”
With the elimination of the B51 and B39 buses, which connect Manhattan to Brooklyn, many wheelchair users have found it impossible to use the subway as an alternative.
“Your choice is to wheel across the Brooklyn Bridge,” Prentiss said.
“It’s not just wheelchair users,” Paula Wolff, president of Disabled in Action, noted. “Even someone who has a heart condition or severe asthma can’t go up subway stairs.”
New York City’s bus fleet was the first in the world to become 100 percent accessible, but it is difficult to make the entire aging subway system ADA-compliant, said an MTA spokesperson.
Two different disabled groups filed lawsuits against the MTA, saying the bus cuts are against laws requiring equal treatment.