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New technology gives disabled LIRR riders an assist boarding trains

The LIRR's Glen Head station is the first

The LIRR's Glen Head station is the first to host the new "Help Point" kiosk feature, which assists riders with special needs in getting the attention of railroad personnel on an arriving train, Thursday, July 4, 2019. Photo Credit: Danielle Silverman

New technology being tested by the Long Island Rail Road aims to give riders with disabilities extra help when boarding a train.

The LIRR’s Glen Head station is the first to host the new “Help Point” kiosk feature, which assists riders with special needs in getting the attention of railroad personnel on an arriving train.

The kiosk includes a button marked “boarding assistance” that, when pressed, activates a flashing yellow beacon that notifies train crew members who can help the customer, including by setting up a bridge plate to help get wheelchair users onto a train.

The kiosk also has buttons for customers to notify authorities of an emergency, or to communicate directly with LIRR personnel for information.

LIRR president Phillip Eng, talking about the program at a May MTA Board meeting, said it stemmed from feedback from customers with special needs, including those who said they had particular difficulty getting crew members’ attention during nighttime hours.

“This will give them more confidence that they will be observed,” Eng said. “It’s a way of showing that we are listening to customers.”

Eng said the LIRR will roll out the new technology at other locations, including as part of the railroad’s plans to renovate several stations in its $2.6 billion effort to construct a third track between Floral Park and Hicksville. Eng said the railroad intends to eventually include the feature at all its stations.

Wheelchair user Adam Halpern, 40, of Merrick, said the prospect of the technology could be a “game changer” for him. He said he sometimes opts to travel into Manhattan by car, rather than by train, because of the stresses of navigating the LIRR system on a wheelchair.

“The accessibility would allow me to do whatever I need to do without worrying about the gap, about . . . getting people’s attention or asking for help or having someone come with me,” Halpern said. “It definitely relieves the anxiety that can come with traveling on a train.”

The technology comes as the railroad looks to improve accessibility, including through its LIRR Care hotline, which customers with disabilities can call to receive help while traveling.

The LIRR has faced criticism in recent years from advocates for the disabled for not doing enough to make the rail system accessible. Four LIRR riders filed a lawsuit against the railroad earlier this year, accusing it of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not having elevators at several stations.

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