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Disabled Hacked Off About Cabs

Person in wheelchair holding protest signs next to taxi vehicleMichael Imperiale, 67, and fellow demonstrators position themselves by a taxi stand at Roosevelt Ave. and Main St. during a protest yesterday.

Delroy Askins, like many other New Yorkers, got up yesterday morning and took the subway. He was not going to work but rather to be a part of a demonstration in Flushing.

Askins, 41, of Harlem, was the victim of a robbery in 1994 during which he was stabbed in the back, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. He is wheelchair-mobile.

You got to do what you got to do. This is important. I had to get here, he said, recounting how lucky he is that his 125th St. station on the Lexington Ave. line has an elevator.

He traveled down to 42nd St. and then out to Main St. on the 7 line, where there is also an elevator.

Askins was part of a roll-in at the taxi stand at Roosevelt Ave. and Main St. to demonstrate how yellow cabs are inaccessible to wheelchair and electric scooter users.

Eleven other wheelchair- or scooter-mobile people also thought it important enough to make the trip to the demonstration by the Taxis for All Campaign.

Edith Prentiss of Washington Heights and others were able to get there using Access-a-Ride, others took buses, and Bill Danielson was able to scooter from his Flushing home. I believe the city and state failed to recognize the disabled community and I feel we are being discriminated against on all fronts especially transportation, said Danielson.

We chose to conduct the roll-in in this area because Councilman John Liu who represents this area is also chairman of the Transportation Committee, said Dan Anderson, assistant director of the United Spinal Association, based in Jackson Heights. We are asking him to introduce and help pass a bill that would require any new cabs to be wheelchair-accessible, said Anderson.

The association and the Taxis for All Campaign met with Liu over the past six months about the proposed legislation, he said.

The dozen in wheelchairs or scooters and about 20 other members of the campaign held signs reading, Council Member Liu: It's Time We Got a Ride.

Currently, three of the city's 12,487 yellow taxis are accessible to wheelchair and scooter users, said Anderson.

Liu (D-Flushing) said the issue is not so simple but I believe is do-able. There are a lot of questions and issues to work out, he said, principally, the durability of the vehicles and the insurance cost.

My fantasy is a cab someday, said Prentiss at the roll-in as she made a motion to hail a cab.

Originally published on September 14, 2004

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