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New N.Y.C. program streamlines taxi service for wheelchair users

October 22, 2012|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Victor Calise, left, commissioner of the Mayor's Office for People With Disabilities, tries out a cab at the launch of Accessible Dispatch.
Victor Calise, left, commissioner of the Mayor's Office for People… (Accessible Dispatch )

It's not so easy for wheelchair users to flag down accessible cabs in New York City. Of the 13,000 taxis in Manhattan, just 233 are equipped to handle wheelchairs. How do you find one when you need one without making a reservation in advance?

Enter Accessible Dispatch, a service that started in September and is designed to cut down on wait times when a wheelchair user needs a taxi. Here's how it works: The company uses GPS to track all the accessible taxis in the city.

When a call for a taxi is made, the closest available cab is sent for the pick up. Passengers pay the metered fare only; the cost of "deadhead miles" (the time it takes for the cab to get to the passenger) comes out of funds designated for that purpose.

Accessible cabs are usually minivans that load from the back or the side, and drivers are trained to secure the wheelchair user in the vehicle. (Scooter users may use the service too but would have to transfer to a seat in the cab.) The service covers trips from Manhattan to stops in the city's five boroughs, including airports, but not the other way round.

Manhattan wheelchair travelers can grab a cab by calling 311, calling the dispatch center at (646) 599-9999, texting a request to (646) 400-0789 or using a free mobile app (Androids and iPhones) called Wheels on Wheels.

Info: Accessible Dispatch

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