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NYC Taxi Rule Surcharges Equity or Ableism?

October 2, 2022
Author: AO Editor

Inflation is soaring. The cost of basic needs is stretching budgets… The US is technically in a recession. And the 2023 economic forecast isn’t all sunshine and rainbows either.

And that’s why there’s no better time than right now to ramp up surcharges and put more pressure on stretched wallets!

At least this seems to be the perspective behind the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s proposal to 3X the current yellow and green taxi surcharge.

Does this even relate to disability employment programs or digital accessibility? Yes… We’ll get there. Just stay with me for a moment.

How many people heard about the rule and then said,

“You know… What really makes me happy in light of all these surcharges is knowing this is all to make 50% of New York’s yellow and green taxis accessible to people with disabilities!”

When the monetary surcharges go away, where will the on-going societal and corporate surcharges go?

I’ll Take Unconscious Bias and Ableism for One Thousand.

I love studying human psychology and why people do the things they do. But I would have never imagined being able to witness first-hand one of the mostly deeply embedded, rotten, oppressive societal beliefs first-hand at scale.

Imagine. It’s the first day. It’s the first time you open your eyes unable to see anything. You’re unsure, uncertain, what’s out there, what’s going on, and what’s going to happen to me?

You know things are going to suck. Getting to work. Traveling. Shopping. Checking the mail. It’s going to be hard. Real hard. Everything’s just different now. It’s depressing.

Nothing could have prepared you for one of the biggest differences though. A cruel difference. The difference in people.

What they say. What they do. How they act. The choices they make in school, at work, in the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, at restaurants, and driving taxis. Worse, they don’t even seem to care if someone else watches them do it.

What Does Discrimination, Segregation, and Ableism Every Day Look Like?

I don’t know. Thankfully I can’t see them…

But they sure can and they sure like to stare. Oooh, they like to stare. Sure, they’ll keep staring but that isn’t as fascinating as what else happens at scale.

Some say nothing. They might dash in front of you, jump over your cane, or rush around you quickly, quietly, hoping to go unnoticed. Because, in case you aren’t woke, all blind people are also hard of hearing. Potentially dumb as well.

Some say hurtful, mean things. Some yell at you as they’re driving down the street. Why? Isn’t it obvious? Blind people have no emotions or soul.

Some conversations stop all together when I pass by. Some cheerful conversations turn to quiet whispers. Because again we’re deaf, dumb, and have no clue why everyone just got quiet.

Some hiring processes end on the first in-person interview. Others end on the second. Over 95% quickly end after the severity of one’s disability is realized by the hiring manager. If you’re a glass half-full kind of person, good news is that disabled people don’t have bills to pay or food to buy.

Most make assumptions about what is or isn’t possible for you. Some keep it to themselves. Others feel obligated to make sure you know how they feel about your life, even if it’s to tell me how they would have undoubtably committed suicide if they went blind. And candidly, nothing pumps me up more after a long day on my way home then hearing that perspective.

Who Really Pays the Surcharge for Accessible and Equitable Transportation?

According to the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, it shouldn’t be directly paid by disabled people. Just indirectly.

Cool! I was worried for a minute. But here’s the real reason for the 3X surcharge.

New York City was mandated by a federal judge in 2013 to make 50% of their 13,000 yellow and green taxis accessible to people with travel-limiting disabilities by 2020. Good news. There are only 13,500 taxis now in service and NYC is already half-way there! Just two short years passed the deadline.

They dropped the ball, year after year, and now they’re scrambling trying to figure out who’s going to pay for what a judge mandated 9 years ago to be achieved 2 years ago.

In the light of increasing transportation accessibility for underserved disenfranchised communities who don’t have equal access to the same basic needs as others, it’s easy to perceive the outcome as a PWD win-win-win. It will increase accessibility to public services, employment outcomes, community engagement, and other basic daily life functions…

Yaaay! I’m willing to pay an extra $0.70 for that. But my awareness, my experience, knows how these good intentions may quickly turn into unintended consequences.

Unintended consequences reinforcing the unrelenting pains of segregation, discrimination, and oppression for the disability community.

My Pain is Way Worse Than Your Pain! I promise…

I never appreciated back pain until I had back pain myself. Before that experience, I couldn’t fathom that my back was involved in everything, from lifting my arm to turning my head.

I never appreciated how debilitating migraine headaches are until I was held down by them. I just couldn’t understand how something invisible could be so preventative, inhibitive, and restrictive on one’s life.

I never appreciated the depth of ableism and societal discrimination until walking out of the hospital totally blind. Before then, I couldn’t imagine so many uneducated, highly educated, poor and wealthy people to treat me like a third-class citizen. Nor would I imagine it hurting this bad.

Again, we’re emotional beings. We carry significant unconscious biases. We try hard to create logical reason, rational justification, and fact-based decisions. But we fail miserably at it.

And emotionally, it’s difficult. Difficult to imagine you may have demonstrated ableist thoughts, statements, or behaviors. Difficult to realize you may have been saying, doing, or believing hurtful things.

It’s tough, very tough, to appreciate and intimately understand this invisible pain until I felt it myself.

It’s hard not to wonder. I’ve asked myself these questions many times. What do others do? How do others get by?

Maybe the reason why some people tell me they would have given up is because they don’t have the simple answers to the same questions.

I’m so blessed. All my faculties, advantages, ambition, and drive are the intertwining fabrics of who I am that have given me the vehicle to get where I am today.

If achieving gainful employment, health care, education, and financial stability has been this difficult for me… What do people who are less fortunate do? I can only imagine but I do know this at the core of my being.

America was built on equal opportunity for all.

Everything we do at AccessAbility Officer believes in restoring this equity.

Is ensuring equal opportunity for people with disabilities a priority for you?

Schedule time with one of our disability and accessibility experts right now.

And if you’ve found this insightful, take 2 seconds to share it! But I want to know what you think.

Tell me your thoughts about this proposed rule… Do you feel this is just? How do you feel about paying more so others have equal access to public services? What perspectives, arguments, implications am I not considering here? Maybe you have an idea for a better approach?

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