On Friday, May 6, members of Disabled In Action met for two and one half hours with Eric Kim, Chief of Staff to Department of Transportation First Deputy Commissioner Andrew Salkind. The purpose was to discuss the inability of our community to gain service under the Taxi and Limousine Commission's For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) Rule 6-07(f). This rule, promulgated on February 1, 2004,
"requires each FHV base station (livery, black car and luxury limousine) to provide wheelchair-accessible service to persons with disabilities upon request, at an equivalent price and service level as non-wheelchair-accessible transportation. This also includes base stations located outside of New York City but licensed by the TLC."
Call in Procedure - When calling local car services, consumers are finding that local dispatchers often are unfamiliar with FHV Rule 6-07 (f), and are told that service cannot be provided. Some dispatchers tell the consumer to call the contracted carrier for service. When the contractor is called directly, service is often denied because of inability to meet the demand. In addition, although local car services are often open 24 hours a day to accept ride requests, contractors often shut down for the evening at 10:00 PM until the following morning.
Complaint proceedure - Consumers utilizing the from provided on the DIA website (http://www.disabledinaction.org/car_report.html) are finding that their complaints are largely dismissed at hearings where they are not present. The reasons for this, Mr. Kim explained, are that the penalty for violation of Rule 607(f)-- suspension of the license of the car service base-- is too harsh, and Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) are reluctant to impose it. Often, the local car service provides an argument which is not address in the complaint, and it was alleged, the technology does not exist for the consumer to respond. Some
"creative" ALJs are tacking on other charges with lesser penalties (such as a fine). Mr. Kim acknowledged that Rule 607(f) has not been effective as presently written.
ADA Standards - While the TLC employs the language of the A.D.A, it hasn't followed the A.D.A standards.
"equivalent service" - Equivalent service means that service must be provided at the same availability, time frame, price, hours provided by the car service base. Consumers should also expect that their local car service will make the arrangements for the ride, and not be asked to make a separate call to the contractor.
vehicle accessibility - Some of the approved contractors are
"ambulette" services. Virtually all of these are in violation of the A.D.A because the full size vans they use (
"inVALID vehicles") largely do not have raised roofs, and therefore don't meet the height requirements.
Marketing - The TLC was faulted for not marketing to our community the availability of accessible service under Rule 607(f) as aggressively as it does it's other initiatives.
Some remedies: Mr. Kim acknowledged that the rule provides that dispatchers at local car services who receive a request for accessible transportation must make all arrangements, and not place the onus on the consumer to call the contractor. He suggested that when calling the local car service, the consumer first tell the dispatcher the location of the pick up and the final destination, and ask how long it would take for a vehicle to arrive and how much the ride would cost. After receiving this information, then request an accessible vehicle. If for any reason service is then denied (don't accept an offer to place the wheel chair in the vehicle's trunk), then file a complaint with the TLC.