Vintage Buses Reflect Vintage Attitudes Toward the Disabled

Passengers are grumbling that the old fleet back on the streets this holiday season isn't wheelchair-accessible

Poor old MTA. They just can't get a break.

Those old double-decker buses they've trotted out to distract us from the massive looming fare hike give New Yorkers a case of the warm fuzzies this holiday season may offer a charming peek into the city's past, but they've got some riders up in arms: Turns out they're not wheelchair accessible.

As of 1993, NYC made all of its buses accessible to wheelchair-bound passengers, but the 19 vehicles back in circulation for the holiday season - including General Motors Coaches from 1959 and 1962 - pre-date accessibility laws, and serve as a handy reminder that while the past may have been quaint, it was bloody inconvenient for anyone who wasn't of sound body.

According to the City Room, back in 1983 less than a third of the city's 3,600 buses had wheelchair lifts, and even those that did weren't always equipped with understanding or competent drivers: Some apparently "refused outright to pick up disabled passengers, speeding by them at bus stops," while others "who were not careful operating the lifts accidentally dumped handicapped passengers out of their wheelchairs and into the street." Ah, those were less litigious times.

As for the vintage fleet, the MTA isn't about to go to any heroic lengths to revisit the past: They say "wheelchair users should wait for a regular bus."

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