Mind The Gap

A tumblr campaign to bring necessary attention to the inconsistencies in wheelchair accessibility within the NYC MTA Subway System. This is an issue of corporate accountability This is an issue of safety. If the MTA lists a station as "Wheelchair Accessible" then it needs to BE wheelchair accessible, but it's not consistently so. I've personally experienced this too many times, which was not only scary but downright dangerous. When you file a complaint with the MTA, they give you the same answer : "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. It's time to fight back. Whether you are in a wheelchair or not, please sign the petition and share this with everyone you know. The MTA should not be allowed to get away with this, and it is only because they are the only game in town, that they do. Thank you.

PETITION: http://tiny.cc/MindTheGapMTA

TWITTER: mindthegapmta

Regardless of your mobility, regardless of where you live, rise up and let the MTA know that treating people in wheelchairs like second class citizens is NOT acceptable."If the MTA insists there are problems with their wheelchair accessible subway platforms, then why do wheelchairs keep getting stuck in the gap? Mind The Gap Campaign. Because safety is not a luxury. mindthegapmta.tumblr.com"
Regardless of your mobility, regardless of where you live, rise up and let the MTA know that treating people in wheelchairs like second class citizens is NOT acceptable.

"If the MTA insists there are problems with their wheelchair accessible subway platforms, then why do wheelchairs keep getting stuck in the gap? Mind The Gap Campaign. Because safety is not a luxury. mindthegapmta.tumblr.com"

"There is not ONE single member of the MTA board who uses a wheelchair. Not one. And yet they tell customers in wheelchairs that the varying gap between the subway car and platform in the wheelchair accessible stations is not a problem. For them to even think that they are remotely qualified to speak on the topic, is like an all male panel feeling they’re able to discuss what women want/need in regard to female contraception. Is no different than a panel of all white people saying that racial profiling is not an issue. How would you know?" - Michele Kaplan / Mind The Gap Campaign

Today, I went to the MTA Board Meeting to make a 2 minute statement. Below is what was said. [photo credit: twu local 100]

"On the 12th Mr. Lhota, you spoke at a breakfast forum and one of the things you said, that there must be a focus on customer service. However, the MTA’s actions in regard to the customer in a wheelchair speaks, to the contrary.

For one, the wheelchair accessible subway stations are simply not consistently so. This is due to the varying gap between the subway car and the platform. When the gap is too high and/or too wide, it results in the customer not being able to board the subway car, and/or their wheelchair getting dangerously stuck in the gap.

While many complaints have been filed, the MTA continues to insist that there is no problem. The MTA has stated that the vertical gap is not under their control, and that they are being ADA compliant.

“[in regard to wheelchair accessible stations] there is a gap [between the platform and subway car], about four inches wide and two inches high“ - MTA Website

“the height requirement only applies to subway cars that are half full and the height of the car shifts depending on how many people are on board,” - NY1 Article

However, Section 38.53 of the ADA Law (which you are referring to) has three parts, not one. The part you are referring to only applies to retrofitted vehicles in existing stations.

That means when I am unable to board the Q (which qualifies as a new vehicle, not a retrofitted one), the gap can not be higher than 1.5 inches, and no wider than 3 inches. This is not reliant on passenger load.

Recently, I attempted to board a Q train at the 34th street station. Due to the wide gap between the platform and subway car, my front wheel went into the gap. Thankfully, the conductor was there and (along with 3 other passengers) they were able to lift my front wheel out of the gap and back onto the platform. This was naturally quite scary, but what is even scarier is the thought: What would happened to me if there was no conductor? Phasing out the conductor (which I’ve heard the MTA is considering) is not only a further risk to my safety, but is further neglect to the customer in a wheelchair who is already treated like a second class citizen in the eyes of the MTA. “

It was on the 13th of August. I was trying to go home from the DeKalb subway station in downtown Brooklyn.

Now, for those who follow this tumblr, you know that getting stuck and/or lacking access to a subway car (in a wheelchair accessible station) is a risk you take every time you take the subway when you’re a customer in a wheelchair. Yes, even when you board within the designated boarding area, as suggested by the MTA. You risk damage to your chair and damage to yourself.

But something occurred to me that day. Something that made me realize this issue is much bigger then originally suspected.

Now, at this point, I categorize all subway car entrances into three categories. One has the absurdly high vertical gap, where you just know there is no way in hell, you can enter that subway car. The second is the ever lovely (though less common) flat entrance. There is not a doubt in your mind that you can enter here, because it’s just wonderfully and blatantly wheelchair accessible. Then there is that third category where you really have to try it to find out. Sometimes the result is a happy (though very bumpy) surprise, and other times, it’s just not accessible and you get stuck.

So, a Q train that pulls up. The entrance is in that gray area where it’s hard to tell by just looking at it. I had my doubts so I looked at the conductor for some sort of sign. He said “Go for it!”. “Yeah?” “Yeah, go for it!” with cheerful enthusiasm.

So when I took a chance and got stuck? Honestly, I just broke down and cried. I cried because I was so incredibly frustrated. This is supposed to be safe and once again it’s not, and not that this is anything new, but the fact is, it’s clearly a problem and the MTA keeps insisting there is no problem. So, what am I supposed to do? Yes, keep fighting till it’s get changed, which I will do, but what am I supposed to do in the meantime? When I am trying to get home and I can’t. Or I get stuck. Or I have to let 3 trains go by till one pulls that is accessible. It just gets to you after awhile.

(video of the motorized wheelchair getting stuck : http://bcove.me/em28vtfk)

Finally, the 4th subway pulled up to the station which was thankfully wheelchair accessible, but as I am riding home, my mind flashed back to the conductor. He was trying be helpful and was very friendly, but I began to wonder : The MTA says that passengers in wheelchairs should always board in the designated boarding area where the conductor can see you, so if you need extra help, the conductor can provide that**. But then here was a conductor who was doing his best, but his response didn’t suggest that he had received any kind of mobility assistance training.

And if the train crew weren’t being trained? Holy cow! That is not just madness, that’s outright dangerous. Dangerous for the wheelchair community and for the train crew. If my wheelchair gets stuck where it’s half way in the subway car and half way on the platform, the subway car doors will not (thankfully) be able to close. As a result, the train will not be able to (thankfully) move. At this point the conductor has to alleviate the situation. What’s the usual reaction? Let’s tilt back, push or lift the chair. However, without proper mobility assistance training, this is just an accident waiting to happen.

So, I contacted the TWU Local 100 (which is the union for the traincrew) to get an answer. After all, if the answer is no, then this is a problem for both communities.

What I found out was borderline shocking. Even for the MTA. There is no mobility assistance training provided for the NYC subway train crew. Furthermore, they were never even told that the MTA was offering their assistance.

This is just another example of the MTA’s absolute neglect for safety. It’s not right and they need to be held accountable. Join the campaign. Sign the petition (http://tiny.cc/MindTheGapMTA ) and fight back. Let the MTA know that it is not okay to put hard working people, to put paying customers at risk for injury and for the executives to simply turn the other cheek as if there isn’t a problem at all.

** “The MTA says the designated boarding areas it’s built are more level with the subway cars and they’re also within sight of the conductor, so riders who need extra help can ask for it. “ - http://www.ny1.com/content/top_stories/165624/ny1-exclusive—wheelchair-riders-getting-stuck-at-accessible-subway-stations

“Conductors can assist riders if they need it” - MTA spokeswoman Deidre Parker http://brooklyndaily.com/stories/2012/31/all_wheelchairsubwaygaps_2012_08_03_bk.html


"This is about a large corporation ignoring a safety issue for the disability community, and they are too rich and too big to get away with it."

The NYC MTA says that the boarding areas on the wheelchair accessible platforms comply with ADA Law, but do they? [hint: no] Find out in the first video of the Why I Fight Back Series: The MTA, The Subway, The Law.


A big thank you goes out to all the newspapers, radio shows and news channels who was kind enough to cover the story. To see all the coverage, click here.

Transcript: OPENING CREDITS: Mind The Gap Campaign presents…
Why I Fight Back Pt 1:
The MTA, The Subway, The Law

Reporters: At the designated wheelchair boarding area for the last half our, and out of 10 trains that have passed by, she says only one seems safe enough to try to get on.

The MTA says it’s special boarding areas comply

The MTA tells us every one of it’s trains, has at least one car door that is only two inches higher than the platform, and up to four inches away from it.

But we measured the gap of the designated area on four different trains, and found three where the vertical gap, was higher than the maximum two inches.

I’m following their rules, I’m entering the car by the conductor, and still, I can’t get on the train or I am getting stuck.

And it’s not accessible. I’ve tried it twice so far and I’ve gotten stuck. So, you know, The MTA’s solution to this is no solution.

This is a large corporation ignoring a safety issue for the disability community, and they are too rich and too big to get away with that.

The MTA says the height requirement only applies to subway cars that are half full and the height of the car shifts depending how many people are aboard, which the MTA has no control over.

That is not correct. The MTA is referring to section 38.53 of the ADA Law, which does not have one part but three parts. What they are referring to, only applies to retrofitted subway cars in existing stations. There is a second part that says New Vehicles in Existing Stations can not have a vertical gap higher than 1 and 1/2 inches of the platform height. The horizontal gap can not be wider than three inches. This is not reliant on passenger load.

END CREDITS: Why I Fight Back: Pt 1
Video by Michele Kaplan
for The Mind The Gap Campaign

Footage edited from interviews by
Tina Redwine of NY1
Ivette Feliciano of News 12
Janet Upadhye of DNA Info

Please join us in fighting back. Regardless of where you live, sign the petition and pass it on. Together we can change this!

It’s breaking the law,” Coleman says. “This is a situation they know about, and they will not take steps to address it.
a quote from The Brooklyn Daily Interview

This campaign is starting to get some media coverage, which will hopefully raise public awareness, give the MTA some bad PR and put pressure on them to deal with situation and make it safer for their customers in wheelchairs (which is all I want from this.)

To check out the interviews (as well as the blogs who were nice enough to repost the articles from this tumblr) check out our Reposts, Shares and Media Coverage. (and feel free to send us a message as to what you think.)

A reporter brought this page to my attention. It is a page off of the MTA website for the LIRR (Long Island Railroad.) To be honest, since I never travel to Long Island, I didn’t know it existed. However, I do have some friends who travel on the LIRR and they have confirmed that this is true. They have seen this with their own eyes.

Apparently, the MTA is quite aware of the gap issue with their trains. In fact, if you scroll to the bottom of the page, they even offer the following to their “mobility impaired customers”:

"Mobility impaired customers may enlist the help of a train crewmember when boarding or exiting trains. A sturdy, steel bridge plate can be placed across the gap for easy movement on and off trains. Mention your destination to train crewmembers so that they can provide you with assistance when exiting the train." -MTA Website*

Now, this is only available on the wheelchair accessible train stations on The LIRR (Long Island Rail Road), because obviously what is the point of getting off at a train station, that a person in a wheelchair would have no way of exiting, but the fact remains that the MTA offers a ramp (the “sturdy, steel bridge plate”) PLUS mobility assistance to their LIRR customers who request this.

I was chatting about this with my mother (who lives in Connecticut). She frequently takes the MetroNorth (which is also run by the MTA) into New York City, and she has seen it many a time, where they get out this portable ramp, and make sure the person in a wheelchair gets on and off the train safely.

Which brings me to the question : If the MTA is aware that the gap is sometimes a problem for their mobility impaired customers, then why don’t they offer this on the Subways?

Of course, I can only theorize as to why the MTA would do this for some but not all of their customers, and do that by looking at what are the differences between subway services and the train service of the LIRR and MetroNorth.

1.) Having a reduced fare card, I pay $1.10 (one way), while the reduced fare for the LIRR customer can range from $3.50 to $12.50 (one way, depending on where their going) (source: mta website**)

Is it possible that because the MTA makes more money off of the LIRR customer - even when it’s reduced fare, and as a result, because customers are paying more money, they get a bit more service?

To that I would argue that safety is not a luxury service. Safety should be basic. It should not be something you get if you’re paying more for your ticket.

The other difference that comes to mind is

2.) The frequency of trains. Subway trains simply run more frequently then the trains of the LIRR and MetroNorth. I know when I used to live in East Norwalk, CT (which was a pretty big/popular stop), I could catch a train once every hour, and that was a big deal. Certainly compared to Danbury, CT where the trains ran every 3 hours. A subway (which of course varies per day and by line) will typically come once every 10 minutes.

Thus the odds are, that MTA employees would have to pull out the ramp more frequently then they would for the MetroNorth / LIRR.

One might think that this would slow down the subways and thus effect service.

However, it is without a doubt that it would take far less time for a properly trained MTA employee to pull out a ramp for a customer in a wheelchair, than it would if said customer were to get stuck (between the subway car and platform) and then people have to first get the customer unstuck. (Which does happen, and has happened to me many a time.)

Furthermore, the customer in a wheelchair (who uses the designated wheelchair accessible stations) deserves a safe and smooth entry onto the subway car! Does a person need to get seriously hurt in order for this to change?

Now, of course these are just theories, and I am in no way saying, these are the reasons. That being said, why the MTA does not offer mobility assistance and ramps to their NYC Subway Customers is something that needs to be explained and needs to change.


Gap & Ledges : A City Tale of Subways, Wheelchairs and Danger!

I decided to get back on the subway, but this time bring a small video camera with so I could document the process. Here you can see proof that some subway cars that pull up to wheelchair accessible stations, are simply not wheelchair accessible.

I checked the MTA website and there was no construction or broken elevators that would impact my trip and yet…

In parts of the video, I slowed down the footage so you can see the varying heights of subway car entrances/ledges.

It’s called Gap & Ledges : A City Tale of Subways, Wheelchairs and Danger! I hope you all enjoy it and pass it on!

And a big thank you to everyone who has been liking, retweeting and reblogging these posts. I really appreciate it.

I compared these two images so you can see the different in these two types of subway car entrances. If you look in the highlighted area, the example on top  shows that the subway car ledge and the platform are pretty much meeting each other, which results in an easy and smooth entrance into the subway car for a rider in a wheelchair.

If you look on the bottom, you can see that the subway car ledge is higher then the platform. When I encountered this type of entrance at a wheelchair accessible station, my chair became stuck to the point where I was unable to move. It took the assistance of two passengers to push from behind to get me into the subway car. This was a station that was listed as wheelchair accessible, but because the platform and subway car ledge did not meet up - in that moment was not. This is not only dangerous but unacceptable.

Wheelchair accessible platforms should BE wheelchair accessible.

(source: NYCSubway.org)

I mentioned in a previous post how the gap between the platform and the subway car, and the height of the ledge (the metal piece that sticks out by the subway car doors that minimizes the gap) can vary. If you are walking, you may or may not notice this, but if you are in a wheelchair, it can make the difference between safety & danger, accessible and not accessible (even if a station is listed as  wheelchair accessible.)

If you go onto NYCSubway.org, one can see that the MTA has purchased different models of subway cars through the years. You see it everyday. Some subways are more modern, while other subway cars are clearly older and less hi-tech. Right then and there, it shows that not all subway cars are the same.

Here is an example of where a subway car and a platform would be wheelchair accessible. You can tell, because the ledge of the subway car and the edge of the platform meet each other, thus making it very easy and smooth for a person in a wheelchair to just glide on in.

Here, is another example of a subway car at a platform. As you can see, the ledge/entrance to the subway car is higher up then the height of the platform. If this was a wheelchair accessible station, this would be quite dangerous if not impossible for a rider in a wheelchair to enter the subway car.

Not at this point, you may be saying to yourself “Ah, these are not wheelchair accessible stations” and that is true.

However, I posted these photos, because I have encountered these different types of subway car entrances at wheelchair accessible stations. Sometimes, the entrance is easy and smooth, while other times, the subway car is just not wheelchair accessible (even though the MTA website will say that it is.)

In fact, the second example, is the same type of entrance that I encountered when I tried to get home from the DeKalb station (Q) in Brooklyn on Tuesday the 12th (2012). I had used this same station, same line before to get home and I didn’t have a problem. The station is listed as wheelchair accessible. There was no reported construction that might have altered the route. Nothing. And yet, for some reason, at that point in time - it was not. Cut to me getting dangerously stuck and requiring the help of two burly looking passengers to get me into the subway car (because backing up was not an option, nor was I able to go forward without their assistance.)

The fact that these wheelchair accessible stations & platforms is simply not consistently wheelchair accessible is dangerous and inexcusable. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There are no signs warning you. You are left to find this out on your own. And that is why this campaign exists.

Please sign our petition and pass it on. Thank you.