Thursday, November 30, 2006

NJ Transit sued for 'dising' disabled riders

NY Transit is being sued by three riders with disabilities for various alleged behavior, including not allowing or hassling a rider with a guide dog, repeatedly not providing a transition ramp between the train to the platform, refusing to pick-up or lower lifts and some verbal nastiness as well. "We were forced to file lawsuits to publicize these problems because NJ Transit has to stand up and do something," Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, New Jersey Citizen Action director, said.
For what it's worth, I personally experienced some similar problems on NJ Transit a couple of years ago. On one train, the conductor knew that they had one of those plates to bridge the gap between the train and the platform, but he didn't know where it was. We pulled our son in his wheelchair across the gap instead. Clearly, as a passenger who used a wheelchair, our son was a inconvenience for the crew. Another conductor wasn't sure which stops had ramps for getting off the train. We knew. We researched it at the NJ Transit Web site (there were only three on the whole line I believe).
Since then, I've been harping that more people with disabilities need to ride NJ Transit. It seemed like passengers with disabilities just were not a common enough experience for their staff for them to have their act together, was my analysis. But Bob Westreich, counsel for New Jersey Citizen Action has a different take: "Our goal is to make it as expensive and embarrassing for NJ Transit for failing to take action to retrain drivers. NJ Transit uses the right words and has the right policies. The problem is they do not take these incidents seriously."
I think Westrich nailed it. How else do you explain a transit service that has all this accessibility info on their website, yet conductors can't find the ramp or know which stations someone in a wheelchair can get off at? Staff haven't been trained because it's not viewed as important enough.
Thanks to this lawsuit, I look forward to a better transit experience next time I'm in New Jersey. (Photo of NJ Transit accessible light rail from


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