Accessible Taxi Appeal Centers On Meaning Of "New"
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 10, 2006
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH--In a case that could have implications for people with disabilities across the country, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday over the meaning of the word "new".
The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act required taxi companies to have cabs available that have ramps or lifts for wheelchair users. While the ADA did not require cab companies to immediately outfit all of their existing vans, it did require them to have lifts or ramps with all "new" vans.
Salt Lake City cab companies, interpreting the law to mean "brand-new", purchased a number of older used vans without lifts or ramps. They then arranged for a local ambulance service to pick up riders who use wheelchairs.
Advocates with the Disabled Rights Action Committee, representing ADAPT member Barbara Toomer, sued the taxi companies, arguing that "new" meant "newly acquired", regardless of the vehicle's date of manufacturer.
"The issue comes down to the meaning of the word 'new,'" Rick Armknecht, an attorney for the committee, told the Associated Press. "It's amazing that it comes down to that."
"One definition gives access, the other definition does not," Armknecht explained, adding that if used vans do not have to be made accessible, taxi companies could avoid the law simply by buying newer vehicles that might have been used for just a few days.
In January 2005, a federal judge agreed with City Cab Company of Salt Lake, who claimed that most of the city's taxi-vans could not be retrofitted to accommodate wheelchairs, and that buying accessible vans would cost between $15,000 and $35,000 per vehicle.
"Wheelchair users, taxi company fight over definition of 'new' vehicle" (Daily Herald)
"Court hears arguments on taxi wheelchair access" (Jackson Hole Star-Tribune)