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Advocacy Group Calls On MTA To Make Subways More Wheelchair Accessible

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Though it is not easy for wheelchair users to navigate the subway system, an advocacy group has given the Metropolitan Transit Authority a list of ideas on how that task can be less of a burden for such riders. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

You hop on. You hop off. It's easy.

For wheelchair users like Edith Prentiss, however, moving around by subway, especially getting on trains, is a tall order.

"You can't pop a wheelie in this thing," said Prentiss.

Prentiss is a member of the New York City Transit Riders Council, an advocacy group which on Thursday released "Bridging the Gap," an 84-page report that calls on the MTA to tighten the gap between trains and platforms by installing more raised platforms for riders on wheelchairs.

"What we take for granted because we can walk is certainly not the case for a passenger using a wheelchair," said Andrew Albert from the NYC Transit Riders Council.

The Riders Council examined more than 90 stations that are accessible to riders with disabilities, finding 20 of them that have gaps between trains and platforms measuring three or more inches.

"Their wheels can get stuck, and they lose confidence in the system out of what ends up happening when they try to de-board the train," said Ellyn Shannon from the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee.

That's a sinking sensation Prentiss knows well.

"You're on a roller coaster and the straight drop! That's the sort of sensation," said Prentiss.

Her subway travels have made Prentiss an expert on where to board, which subway stations have reliable elevators and the dimensions of subway cars that have steeper drops onto the platform.

Sure she could line up a car or bus ride through the MTA's Access-A-Ride program, but Prentiss says she simply prefers the subway, even with all its challenges.

This preference has also sharpened her opinions about what the agency needs to do.

"They need to raise the platforms, they need to get better about where they stop the train, they need to have fewer types of cars," said Prentiss.

Ninety-nine of the MTA's 468 subway stations are currently accessible to those with disabilities, and the agency says it is finalizing designs that will allow it to make many of the improvements called for by the Riders Council.

The agency says five more stations should be accessible by next year, with 15 more in the design or planning stages.

Got A Transit Tip?

Do you have a news tip or story idea about the city's transit systems? Send an email to NY1 Transit Reporter Jose Martinez.

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