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Suit: NYC Transit denies services to disabled

New York City Transit violates the constitutional rights of the disabled by denying them paratransit services through the Access-a-Ride program and refusing to give reasons, according to a class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday in Manhattan federal court.

Access-a-Ride is designed to provide vans and other alternatives for people who are medically unable to use subways and buses, but the agency gives applicants a bureaucratic runaround when they are deemed ineligible or denied recertification, the suit said.

Among other problems, it alleges: Denials come in generic form letters without reasons, applicants seeking reasons are told to file a Freedom of Information request which takes longer to process than the appeal deadline and disabled applicants can't get a ride to attend an in-person appeal.

The plaintiffs, the suit said, include Patricia Davis, a Bronx woman suffering from a stroke who was certified for Access-a-Ride in 2011, but then cut off without being given reasons this year; and Barbara Walsh, a Queens senior citizen with a brain injury who was cut off without reasons in 2014, with her service restored only after she got a lawyer.

The lawsuit says that during the past few years the transit authority has been refusing to recertify many previously eligible disabled riders, and the "black box application process" violates the Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Transit officials have said that because of budgetary constraints, the agency has been enforcing medical eligibility for Access-a-Ride more strictly. The program is expected to cost $465 million for 6.4 million trips this year.

Kevin Ortiz, an agency spokesman, declined to comment on the lawsuit. New York City Transit is part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

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