“Before my injury, I had felt that dealing with grittiness and unreliability were the price of entry for living in New York, and even took a smug pride in dealing with obstacles. Since my accident, I have been humbled to realize the often dire effect of civic dysfunction on the vulnerable, and have had to recognize that some of what I once took for resourcefulness was in truth enabled by privilege.
I was once like many other able-bodied New Yorkers, only vaguely aware of subway elevators, merely noting that they seemed dingy and often out of service. But now that I needed them, the reality was more stark. New York’s subway is by far the least wheelchair-friendly public transit system of any major American city, with only 92 of the system’s 425 stations accessible. That means fewer than one in four stations can be used by people in wheelchairs when elevators are working — and they frequently are not.
On average, 25 elevators a day stop working, and these breakdowns are not quickly resolved; their median duration is nearly four hours. Moreover, with a single elevator serving both directions at most stops, a breakdown means that a disabled rider exiting the train will be trapped on the platform, and one hoping to board will have to find some other way to travel to where they need to go."