On June 19, 2007, my spouse and I boarded an Air Canada flight at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport for what we thought was a day trip to Montreal. I’m a quadriplegic and my injury is at the sixth cervical vertebrae.
The purpose of this trip was my delivery of a presentation entitled “Advocacy for Accessible Taxis in New York City” at the 11th International Conference on Mobility and Transport for Elderly and Disabled Persons, or more simply, TRANSED 2007. I was one of the organizers of the New York City Taxis For All Campaign, and I was fortunate to chair this coalition of groups and individuals from 1996 through 2006.
Since my ability to transfer had diminished over the years, I undertook some research and I found several companies that provided wheelchair-accessible taxi service in Montreal. I reserved a trip from the airport to the conference site, as well as an early evening return trip to the airport for our flight home.
Our trip to Montreal was quick and uneventful, and after we passed through Customs, I called the taxi company to report my arrival. Within 10 minutes, an accessible minivan with a wheelchair seating space and tie-downs in the front passenger seat area had arrived. Our driver, who spoke very little English but enough so that we understood each other, secured me in the wheelchair area quickly, and we were en-route to the conference site.
On our return trip to the airport that evening, we had the same taxi driver and we reached our terminal for our flight home with plenty of time to spare. Everything’s good, right? Unfortunately, shortly after we reached the airport, Air Canada announced that it was forced to cancel all flights to New York City for the remainder of the evening because of a huge thunderstorm in the middle of the state.
That’s when my resourceful wife told me “not to worry” since she had the foresight to bring a few essential “quad” items in her handbag, and we both made a beeline for a telephone to call our taxi company once again. We explained our situation to the dispatcher and within 45 minutes, the same driver was loading me into the same accessible cab.
I spoke two words to the driver: “Holiday Inn,” and shortly we arrived at the Holiday Inn-Montreal Airport. They even had an accessible room available. We had a decent dinner at the hotel and a good night’s sleep and as planned, the same driver and accessible taxicab picked us up the next morning and drove us to the airport for a different return flight home.
The moral of this true story? Really, there’s a bunch of them! On June 19 and 20, 2007, the Montreal company with accessible taxis provided my wife and I with four on-demand, door-to-door trips that I remember being safe, comfortable and affordable. Even the best public transportation entity in the country can’t do that. What’s more, accessible taxis are a fast mode of travel since they do not make stops like buses and trains. And remember, I was on a business trip, and if more persons with disabilities are to enter the workforce in the years ahead, we must have a way to get to and from the workplace, and to move around our communities if that’s what a job requires.
Share with us other benefits of the greater availability of wheelchair-accessible taxis that you can envision in your community.
United Spinal’s Accessible Taxi Advocate