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NYC Subway Death Spotlights Lack of Accessibility

Fewer than 25 percent of New York City subway stations are considered wheelchair-accessible. (Dariya Dee/Twenty20)
Fewer than 25 percent of New York City subway stations are considered wheelchair-accessible. (Dariya Dee/Twenty20)
January 30, 2019

NEW YORK - People with disabilities are rallying today at the site where a young mother died when she fell down subway stairs.

Malaysia Goodman fell in the subway station at 53rd Street and Seventh Avenue on Monday as she was carrying her year-old daughter down the steps in a stroller. The daughter survived, but her mother was taken to a hospital and did not survive the fall.

Susan Dooha, executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled New York, called the incident a tragic reminder that fewer than 25 percent of the city's 472 subway stations have elevators.

"We are really overwhelmed by her death," she said, "and it could have been anyone with a disability who tried to navigate that staircase."

In a case filed in 2017, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is being sued under state and federal law for its failure to make subway stations more accessible. Andy Byford, head of the MTA, has promised that by 2025, no rider would be more than two stops away from a fully accessible subway station. However, Dooha noted that a promise isn't binding, and added that even that accommodation would be inadequate.

"Every other station can mean a trek that is way too far for someone with difficulty walking, who uses a walker or a cane, or for someone who uses a manual chair to get around," she said.

Even stations that are called "accessible" are plagued by maintenance issues, she said, including elevators often out of service.

Dooha pointed out that other major cities, such as Chicago and Boston, with older subway systems have achieved 60 percent accessibility or more, but progress in New York has been extremely slow.

"It is dead last among major cities in the United States for having elevators at subway stations so people with disabilities can ride," she said, "and no one has to die on the subway stairs trying to carry their child."

More information is online at cidny.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY