New York City’s Access-A-Ride (AAR) paratransit service is the subject of a proposed class action brought by a legally blind consumer who claims the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the New York City Transit Authority have failed to make the service fully accessible to and independently usable by blind and visually impaired riders.
The 22-page Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complaint explains the AAR program, a shared-ride transit service offered by MTA to individuals with disabilities, provides door-to-door service to tens of thousands of passengers in New York City each day. As the plaintiff tells it, whereas sighted individuals can independently identify and locate their AAR vehicle on the road and decide for themselves whether to “wait at a comfortable, safe location, or board accordingly,” blind and visually impaired passengers “are regularly denied the opportunity to use the AAR comfortably and safely.” Blind passengers, the lawsuit says, are often forced to rely on sighted companions to help identify when an AAR vehicle has arrived, as drivers “do not call out names of customers or provide appropriate assistance with boarding.”
Further, the case claims many AAR drivers do not speak English and rely on passengers to hail them down or wave in order to be picked up. In the plaintiff’s experience, the complaint continues, “most of the time AAR vehicles arrived at the wrong pick-up location and only waited for five minutes” before departing. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff has made “at least 100 complaints” on AAR’s customer care line without the apparent issues being addressed.
“Just as buildings that are only accessible by walking up stairs bar and exclude people who use wheelchairs, paratransit services that do not provide audible signaling, advance warnings of arrival times, or appropriate door-to-door physical assistance exclude individuals who are blind or visually impaired,” the suit reads.