The Subway Problems That Killed a Young Mother Have Been Affecting Disabled New Yorkers For Years

On January 28th, Malaysia Goodson died. She was a 22-year-old mother, living in New York City, and she died after falling down the stairs while carrying a stroller. This tragedy has sparked a great deal of talk about the inaccessibility of the New York subway system—as it should, given that only about a quarter of the city’s subway stations have elevators.

However, this is not a new issue—and is in fact one that disabled people have been protesting against for years. In 2017, New York’s Center for Independence of the Disabled (or CID-NY) joined others in a lawsuit against the MTA on the grounds that, with about 360 of 472 stations lacking elevators, and the elevators that do exist being improperly maintained (by one study potentially breaking down up to 53 times a year), the subways systematically exclude people with disabilities. (This lawsuit has not yet been settled.)

In 2017, the Guardian created this map, displaying only the accessible stations in the NYC subway system.

Proposals for changes in the MTA system have been occurring since the 1980s, when the MTA voted to install elevators in multiple stations, but were shot down by then-mayor Edward Koch, as well as Stephen Berger, the chairman of the MTA board’s finance committee, who commented that installing elevators is “tossing money down the drain.” And thirty-odd years later, things haven’t changed as much as they’ve needed to.

Alex Elegudin, the MTA’s first accessibility chief.

In June 2018, the MTA appointed Alex Elegudin, a wheelchair user and a disability advocate, as the MTA’s first accessibility chief. To his credit, Elegudin has begun to implement an aspect of the MTA’s Fast Forward plan, increasing the number of accessible subway stations by 50 within five years (bringing it up from 117, according to a 2017 study, to 167 out of 472). But even a fast pace for the MTA can still be too slow for people who need working elevators now, and have needed them for a very long time.

[First image from The Guardian; second image from Anabella Veress Photography]