NYC Subways Lack Accommodations for Accessibility

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Seventy-five per cent of the subway stations in New York City don’t have full accessibility. New York City’s most popular form of transportation is causing issues for people who are visually impaired, deaf and cognitively disabled, according to a report in City Limits, a nonprofit New York investigative news site. The subway system often lacks full accessibility, which discriminates against people with disabilities, limiting their ability to travel across one of the world’s biggest cities using its most popular form of transportation.

Just 25 percent of subway stations in New York City are accessible by elevators or ramps. By comparison, 71 percent of Boston stations and 69 percent of Chicago stations have such accommodations. Los Angeles and Washington, DC, each have hundred percent accessibility. Further, many New York stations lack bumpy strips on the ground that warn those with impaired vision when there are hazards such as stairs or edges and platforms. Three hundred and fifty  stations have these strips yet a staggering 122 lack them. Susan Dooha, executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled, told City Limits  there have been cases where people with disabilities have fallen on the subway tracks because of the missing platform edge strips.  The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has acknowledged the problem, but not yet fixed it.

Audible announcements are one way that people who are blind or visually-impaired gather crucial information. However, in noisy subway systems, audible guidance is often drowned out by the sounds of the trains. Furthermore, MTA signage often lacks big, bold text in eye-catching colors and sometimes Braille. There were commitments to test new features last fall including bright colored strips on the ground or images that are compatible with apps for the visually impaired.

In 2018, 60 Minutes reported on problems with MTA’s ‘Fast Forward’ accessibility plan, which aimed to introduce measures such as informational screens and Braille. There has been no follow-up report on the implementation of these measures, however. A January 2020 MTA press release stated that five new apps and four tactile and visual wayfinding had been piloted with positive results. The MTA pledged that by 2029 over 50% of subway stations will be fully accessible and 100% accessible by 2034.

Source:  Ethan Stark-Miller, “Underground and Underserved: To Be Blind or Deaf and Ride the NYC Subway,” City Limits, January 8, 2020,

Student Researcher: Adam Bent (University of Regina)

Faculty Evaluator: Penny Smoke (University of Regina)