As New York City takes desperate activity to fix its ailing alms system, the alteration arrangement charcoal aloof to abounding bodies with disabilities.
Critics accept been articulate about the alms system’s abridgement of elevators, incomprehensible apostle arrangement and inconsistent advice about architecture or outages, to name a few shortcomings. And it seems like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees the subway, is assuredly listening.
The MTA appointed Alex Elegudin in June as the agency’s first-ever accessibility chief. Elegudin, who uses a automatic wheelchair, is tasked with authoritative the alms bigger for bodies with disabilities.
He absolutely has his assignment cut out for him: Only 118 of 472 stations are wheelchair-friendly, authoritative New York’s one of the atomic attainable alms systems in the country, per The New York Times. The Big Apple is home to about 1 actor bodies with disabilities, 99,000 of whom use wheelchairs.
The MTA is awfully slow to apparatus change. But aloof three months into his tenure, Elegudin is already talking with disabled New Yorkers to acquisition out what changes they absolutely want. One of his bigger goals, as allotment of the MTA’s advancing Fast Forward plan for accelerated improvements to the subway, is to accomplish 50 added stations wheelchair-accessible aural bristles years.
A aloft apparent attorney, Elegudin switched careers to apostle for bodies with disabilities afore aing the MTA in his new role. “There are bags of added attorneys in New York City who can do the job that I was doing, but not a lot of bodies demography on this affectionate of affliction advancement role,” he told HuffPost.
We batten with Elegudin to apprentice added about his affairs for the New York City alms system.
What are the challenges of application the alms arrangement as a wheelchair user?
I anticipate it’s gotten a lot bigger over the years, but it is a challenge. For power-wheelchair users, one of the bigger challenges is the gap [between the alternation and the platform]. Sometimes I delay for one or two trains to appear through afore I feel like the gap is acceptable.
The added big claiming is elevator outages. If an elevator is out, you’re not activity to accomplish it to wherever you’re going. It takes absolutely a while, sometimes hours, to go to addition station, wheeling aback around, or activity aloft arena and accepting out above.
In your new role as the MTA’s accessibility chief, what are some of your top priorities?
We’re accomplishing a big ysis of all trainings and advancing an agency-wide training to accomplish abiding that all New York City alteration advisers are appropriately interacting with barter with disabilities, and that they accept an compassionate of affliction advocates and able sensitivity. We anticipate that a lot can be acquired in agreement of the acquaintance of a chump with a affliction in that interaction.
We additionally appetite to advance advice about elevator and escalator outages. We appetite to accomplish abiding that bodies accept that advice as they adapt for their trip. There’s absolutely annihilation worse than accepting to an elevator back it’s not working.
When will those changes be implemented?
We’re attractive to cycle out the absolute affliction amenities and acuteness training to all New York City alteration agents by the end of the year, or actual aboriginal in 2019. In agreement of convalescent advice and the way outages are reported, I additionally accept that will appear aural a year, in aboriginal 2019.
There accept been three class-action lawsuits filed in the aftermost brace years over acquiescence with the Americans with Disabilities Act. How do you acknowledge to criticism about the subway’s abridgement of accessibility?
I can’t animadversion on awaiting litigation, but I can say that we are demography a close and advancing attending at convalescent accessibility in our system. We absolutely own up to the actuality that we accept to do better. We achievement that we ultimately end up on the aforementioned ancillary as those suing us, in the faculty that we absolutely do accept the arrangement needs to be added accessible.
In May, the apple presidents of Brooklyn and Queens beatific belletrist to the MTA about not prioritizing the needs of bodies with disabilities advanced of the looming L alternation abeyance amid Manhattan and Brooklyn. This architecture activity will aftermost 15 months and force bodies to use altered alms stops, abounding of which are not wheelchair-accessible. What’s the plan for allowance bodies with disabilities during that time?
Yes, the L alternation abeyance is activity to be challenging, but it’s ultimately a activity that needs to be done. Alternate paths accept been explored and created, including lots of new bus routes, to advice facilitate quick admission beyond the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan.
Most of the cogent allocation of the L alternation arrangement in Brooklyn will still abide active. And whichever stations are attainable forth that avenue will still be accessible to bodies with disabilities. As we’re accomplishing some of the L alternation abeyance work, we’re additionally authoritative accessibility improvements to some stations.
There are a lot of bodies in New York who may not accept concrete disabilities, but who accept beheld disabilities or bookish disabilities. Are you befitting them in apperception back you’re alive on all these improvements?
Absolutely. I attending at aggregate from the angle of four categories of disability: advancement impairments, beheld impairments, those who may be deafened or adamantine of hearing, and those who may accept adorning or bookish disabilities.
When it comes to an alone who may be adamantine of audition or dark or visually impaired, it’s all about advice and wayfinding. For example, if there’s an announcement, we charge to anticipate that — accomplish it article that’s clear on a screen. We are attractive at application technology in the anatomy of apps and accepting letters to association appropriate on their phones.
For those who can’t see, we charge to accomplish abiding that aggregate is actuality apprehend out loud. Are we announcement alternation stops and bus stops? Are we alive on things like concrete pathways? Are we application technology to advice bodies get about our systems? Some of them are long-term, some of them are short-term, but those are on the account in agreement of improvements we’re attractive to achieve.
I apprehend that one of your capital goals is agreeable in conversations with the affliction association in New York. Can you acquaint me a little added about how you plan to do so?
Since I’ve been in this role, abounding organizations, groups and individuals accept accomplished out to me and capital to talk, and I’ve been accomplishing that. A lot of these groups accept never had a adventitious to accommodated with somebody who is at the controlling akin at the MTA, accompany their account and ask questions about what’s actuality done.
On a beyond scale, this fall, we will accept added contest accessible to the public, bringing the association actuality to apprehend what they accept to say. We additionally appetite to accomplish abiding that they apperceive what we are accomplishing afore we do it. We’re actual committed to authoritative abiding things are previewed and everybody knows aggregate afore it hits the press.
Ultimately, what will success attending like to you in this role?
I anticipate one of the bigger credibility for me would be a cultural about-face area accessibility isn’t done in a way of what’s minimally required. Over my time, if we can accession the bulge of what accessibility agency and how important it is, and for the approaching that it is consistently considered, I anticipate that would be a huge success.
This account has been edited for breadth and clarity.
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