Time to close the gap

July 17, 2012

Michele Kaplan explains why she started a Mind the Gap campaign in New York.

MY NAME is Michele. I am an activist from Brooklyn, N.Y.

On Tuesday, July 10, I was at the Con Ed picket line in downtown Brooklyn, showing some love for the unions, when I decided to head home. I took the same train (Q), same subway station (DeKalb Avenue) that I took to get there. However, when I tried to get on the subway car, my motorized wheelchair got stuck. And I don't mean as in a little stuck, and I could just back up--stuck to the point where it took two burly-looking passengers to get me unstuck and onto the subway car.

There are currently 423 subway stations in New York City. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) claims that 73 of them are wheelchair-accessible--that riders in wheelchairs have access to them since wheelchairs lack the ability to climb stairs. However, these stations and platforms are NOT consistently so.

Even if a rider checks the MTA website to make sure the elevators are working and there is no construction that might effect their route, and even if they only start and end their trip with wheelchair accessible stations, it's still like Russian Roulette. You don't know what's going to happen.

A photo at the Mind the Gap website highlights the problem with wheelchair accessibility at New York City subway stations
A photo at the Mind the Gap website highlights the problem with wheelchair accessibility at New York City subway stations (Leonard Wilson | Mind the Gap campaign)

I have written the MTA, and each time I get the same response: "Thank you for taking the time to bring this to our attention. We will pass this on to the appropriate supervisors." And then nothing changes.

Tuesday was hardly the first time I was put in a dangerous situation courtesy of the MTA. So finally, I decided I had had enough, and I was going to fight back--which is when I started the Mind The Gap campaign.

However, I am one citizen on a fixed income versus a large corporation with a lot of money and lawyers and easy access to public relations--which is why I am trying to get the word out and get support.

I would greatly appreciate it, if this story could be posted at SocialistWorker.org. This is about people in wheelchairs in New York City being screwed over by a large corporation. This is about an issue of safety. And lastly, this also an issue of corporate accountability--there is no reason why the MTA executives should be able to get away with this.

Click here for an article I wrote on this topic, which provides more information and back story about the Mind the Gap campaign. You can also sign a petition calling on the MTA to make wheelchair-access stations consistently accessible.

Thank you for your time.

In Solidarity,
Michele Kaplan

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