There are 472 subway stations in the city, but not even a quarter of them are fully accessible to people with disabilities. Two sweeping class action lawsuits filed Tuesday seek to change that. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.
An accident left Sasha Blair-Goldensohn partially paralyzed nearly eight years ago. He then learned just how difficult it is for people in wheelchairs to get around by subway.
"Not close to easy," he said. "It turns out that the system is barely accessible."
On Tuesday, he joined with other disabled riders in filing two class-action lawsuits. They charge the MTA with violating the federal Americans With Disabilities Act and city human rights law.
"We want the MTA to come up with a long-term plan to install elevators and make the system more accessible," said Michelle Caiola of Disability Rights Advocates.
The lawsuits contend that even at stations designed or retrofitted with elevators for the disabled, the MTA often falls short by not properly maintaining the lifts.
"This needs to be a priority," Caiola said. "There are hundreds of thousands of people in New York and visitors to New York that are being denied this very important, efficient, relatively economical way to travel around the city."
That would be a life-changer for Blair-Goldensohn. He resumed using the subway five years ago after giving up on taxis.
"They would bypass me a lot. And one day, I was just sick of it, and I thought, 'You know, I'm just going to try taking the subway,'" he said.
But he showed us just how challenging the system can be, as we joined him traveling from his lawyer's office to his job in the Meatpacking District.
At Grand Central, a broken elevator prevented him from taking a westbound 7 train. So he took the Lexington Avenue line downtown.
He got out at Union Square, but realized the station isn't wheelchair accessible for riders on 4, 5 and 6. So he got back on the Lex and traveled to Fulton Street.
Three elevator rides later, he took an A train to 14th Street.
"I can still go to work. It just takes me a little longer," he says. "But it's just made me realize, this doesn't work for a lot of people."
A fix would not come cheaply. The MTA says that the average cost of making an underground station accessible is about $30 million. Making the entire system wheelchair-friendly would cost more than than $10 billion.