Why a Federal Lawsuit Could Bring Elevators to More Subway Stations

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A new weapon in the fight to fully open the subways to the disabled – a federal lawsuit that would force the MTA to make every station it renovates accessible to riders in wheelchairs.

Disability Rights Advocates, a national non-profit, brought the legal challenge, emboldened by a federal judge’s ruling the MTA violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by renovating a Bronx subway station without adding elevators.

“That was about one station,” said Emily Seelenfreund, a fellowship attorney, at DRA. “DRA actually filed this lawsuit as a related case, basically saying, while it’s clear that you violated the law there, and so clearly, the same law should apply to all of these other dozens of stations that you’re renovating without making them accessible.”

The lawsuit cites renovations to 32 stations that did not add elevators or ramps. Fifteen of the stations got extensive makeovers that added digital signs, artwork and benches.

“The station got renovated. Yeah, renovated for what purpose?” said Valerie Joseph, an advocate with the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled. “For me not to be able to use it? I don’t think that’s fair at all.”

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