Accessible mass transit can be life-changing. For many, mass transit is the main–and sometimes only–means of transportation. It is true that many people cannot afford their own vehicles; however, for others, they could have all the money in the world and still not be able to drive on their own. This limits independence and often places dependence on another or on mass transportation to get around.
The first step to accessing mass transit is for it to exist. This automatically eliminates access to mass transit to anyone who does not live in a city large enough to sustain a transit system. However, a system existing does not automatically ensure access to mass transportation for everyone. There are many barriers that prevent wheelchair users from accessing the benefits of subways and trains as well as buses and taxis.
Subways and Trains
Subways and trains are often the fastest and most convenient modes of transportation. This is due to them being mainly above or below the city streets; this avoids traffic and allows the trains to stay on a swift schedule. Nevertheless, the simple fact of subways and trains being located above or below the street means they are typically accessed via stairs. Not everyone can access stairs so elevators are a must to provide equal access for everyone.
New York City’s train system is the prime example of why elevators are needed. Over three-fourths of the stations are not accessible to anyone who cannot access stairs due to the stations not having an elevator. Other subway and train systems are a little better but most do have a way to go before becoming completely accessible to all.
Innovative app designers have tried to bridge the access gap by creating apps, like NYC Accessible, that indicate which stations have an elevator and can even be updated to share which elevators are in working order. These apps are beneficial as it can be disheartening to arrive at a station only to find that there is no elevator or the existing elevator is broken.
It is also important to be aware that many elevators were installed after the fact, so they can be located in obscure places. Even if elevators do exist, they can often be hard to find. Elevators are not always near the stairway both on the street or in the station. When exiting the subway station, look for the elevator sign as the stairs out can come and you do not want to exit too early and be stuck outside the station with stairs as the only option. Also, once you find the elevator, be wary of what can be found inside.
The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that public services be accessible to all. This goes for all subway stations, not just part of the system. When a service is available to the public, it should be accessible to everyone.
Subways and trains are an incredible resource when accessible. Here’s to this link in the mass transit system becoming available to many who are currently awaiting equal access.