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Introduction video poster

I love New York City. But many days, I feel like New York doesn’t love me back.

Rebecca crosses a New York City street on a hot June day, wearing sleeveless dress and sandals, using her cane. She looks down at the crosswalk.

It isn’t made for me, a person with a disability. And worst of all, nobody cares about changing that.”

Rebecca Lamorte, 30

Ran for New York City Council
in June 2021.

The largest silenced minority in the US

​​Among American adults, 26% have some type of disability, of which mobility-related impairment is the most common.

If people with disabilities were formally recognised as a minority group, they would be the largest in the US. And yet, they are far from being seen or heard.

Rebecca accident poster
Rebecca talks to a visually impaired person in a subway station while they sit on a bench on the platform waiting for their trains

The least accessible subway system in the US

Out of the 472 active subway stations in New York City, less than one-quarter (23%) are equipped with elevators.

84% of subway station elevators reported at least a week’s worth of outages in 2018. For example, the elevators at Times Square, 42nd St., averaged outages of 30 days.

Other “options” for New Yorkers with disabilities

Access-A-Ride is a network of vans equipped with wheelchair lifts that drop eligible passengers off at their destination for the price of a subway ride: $2.75. But there are several caveats.

  • First, the passenger must schedule the ride 1-2 days in advance. Since this is a shared service, customers may be offered a pick-up time an hour earlier or later than requested. After the van arrives, passengers have five minutes to meet the driver, or they get counted as a no-show.
  • In 2017, Access-A-Ride launched the “On-Demand E-Hail” programme, which allows its 1,200 users to electronically book $2.75 taxi rides without having to schedule trips in advance. But, a significant drop in available vehicles since the pandemic has made this an undependable option.

MTA Buses are touted as “100% accessible to customers who use wheelchairs.” But bus drivers don’t always know how to operate the ramps or lifts to board passengers with mobility disabilities. The city’s lack of enforcement against cars blocking bus stops — and delays in plowing piles of snow during winter — also prevents drivers from being able to pull up to the kerb so riders with disabilities can safely board or exit the bus.

Rebecca's dog poster
A man wearing a t-shirt with his back to the camera. His shirt reads: Whose city? Our city.

For the past 10 years, Rebecca has worked with prominent New York labour unions advising on legislative and communications issues.

After her accident in 2013, Rebecca started advocating for the disabled community.

A photo of Rebecca from the knees down. She stands with her cane, wearing slip-on shoes with a democratic donkey on the left shoe and Vote written on the right shoe.

Rebecca lost access to her healthcare when she took a leave of absence from her full-time job to run for local office.

Without health insurance, she had to learn to live without her prescription pain medication.

A homeless man with a hoodie covering his head, sits in an electric wheelchair panhandling on a busy New York City street. He holds out an empty coffee cup as people quickly pass by.

NYC’s Compliance with ADA (or, lack thereof)

The median annual salary for NYC residents with disabilities was $32,000 in 2017, which is barely enough to live in the city. Overall, 34% of people with disabilities have income below the poverty line.

NYC falls short of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a report published in 2016 outlines. The city fails its residents with disabilities in six significant areas: education, employment, public transport, housing/shelter, access to healthcare and website accessibility.

Public office poster

I decided to run for public office because I was angry about the inaccessibility in my community and how I was treated. I wanted to fight like hell."

Rebecca bends down to talk to a disabled girl in a stroller and her mother, in front of the Metropolitan Art Museum.

Representation is very important in every aspect of life, but especially in politics.
I like to say, if you don’t have a seat at the table, then you’re on the menu."

A man in a power wheelchair looks out the window, on the Roosevelt Island Tramway.

New Yorkers of colour with disabilities are doubly marginalised

New Yorkers of colour in 2019 continued to experience poverty at disproportionately high rates: 20.9% of Latinx and 20.5% of Black residents lived in poverty, double the share of white residents.

Additionally, affordable housing options are primarily located in the outer boroughs of Manhattan. Here, “transit deserts” and few accessible stations severely limit employment opportunities for disabled New Yorkers of colour.

Rebecca poses in front of a pavement chalk message that reads: Vote Rebecca Lamorte, City Council District 5, Dem Primary.

Rebecca didn’t win the primary, but more than 4,500 New Yorkers voted for her.

People really discounted us, told us this fight wasn't real. But thousands of people turned out to vote specifically for me as a disabled New Yorker."

Rebecca rides up a subway station's escalator, wearing her “Vote” mask.

I can’t imagine calling any other place my home, but that’s also partially out of fear—fear of the inaccessibility that awaits in a new place.

If NYC is so inaccessible, think about the difficulty disabled people in other parts of my country and the world face.”

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