Public Transportation Challenges Facing People with Disabilities in New Jersey and New York City as We Celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD)

On December 3, the world will observe the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) not only to celebrate the achievements but also to let the world know other important socioeconomic issues affecting the lives of people with disabilities, including those of us in New Jersey and New York City.

The IDPD has been observed globally since 1992 on every December 3. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” This year’s theme focuses on strengthening and empowering persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as enshrined in the 2030 Agenda.

The Day seeks to promote an identification and understanding of disability issues and mobilize support from world leaders, governors, mayors, national and local policymakers, heads of all organizations and individuals for the inclusion and well-being of persons with disabilities.

One of the issues of great importance to the 2030 Agenda related to sustainable urbanization, especially in Goal 11, is to make cities and other human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Speaking of accessible cities reminds me of how inaccessible the public transportation systems in New Jersey and New York City are. In 2016, an article published in the New York Times that was written by Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Patrick McGeehan outlines various infrastructural and safety issues facing NJ Transit. In another article published by NJ.com, a Civil Rights attorney with disability expresses his frustrations with the NJ paratransit system.

The transportation challenges facing New Yorkers with Disabilities are not different from their counterparts in New Jersey. In a recent article published in the New York Times, James Baron highlights challenges Gabriela Amari, a motorized wheelchair user, faces in her daily commute. On July 17, 2018, the New York City Comptroller, Scott Stringer, described the inaccessible nature of the city’s subway system in three words, “ADA Transit Desserts.” in a report.

As a person with disability, I live in an area in Astoria, NY where the MTA has been renovating some of its train stations for the past 2 years without erecting elevators for persons with disabilities, seniors and children under the age of 5. The question is, why would the MTA build new subway stations and not make them ADA compliant in the 21st Century?

According to Feeley (2009), 50.9% of people with autism and or their caretakers in New Jersey who responded to a survey regarding their travel demands and transportation accessible mentioned transportation as the main barrier that is preventing them from working.

When persons with disabilities are cut off from a network of subway stations, it affects their cost of living, choice of housing, and access to employment. Consequently, the quality-of-life of individuals with disabilities will be negatively impacted when they cannot live independently due to lack of access to public transportation.

As we celebrate IDPD, the hope of individuals with Disabilities in NJ and NYC is that our policymakers will listen to us and start removing transportation barriers so that we can live independently. Happy International Day of Persons with Disabilities!