NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A federal judge says new taxis in New York City must be wheelchair accessible.

LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reports

Only about 200 of the city’s 13,000 taxis can handle wheelchairs right now. In a suit against the Taxi and Limousine Commission, several advocacy groups said that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge George Daniels said in his written ruling that the commission can provide taxi medallions only for wheelchair-accessible vehicles until it produces a comprehensive plan to provide meaningful access to taxicab service for disabled passengers.

He said such a plan must include targeted goals and standards and anticipated measurable results.       “Meaningful access for the disabled to public transportation services is not a utopian goal or political promise, it is a basic civil right,” the judge wrote.

But spokesperson Connie Pankrats says the judge is not seeing eye to eye with city’s law department.

“The ADA exempts taxi cabs from having to be wheelchair accessible,” said Pankrats.

Disability Rights Advocates, a non-profit legal center that advocates for people with disabilities, called the ruling “the best Christmas gift our clients could ask for.’

The ruling might mean trouble for the taxi of tomorrow, a Nissan mini-van that’s supposed to replace the fleet in the next few years and is not wheelchair ready.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been opposed to making the city’s cabs wheelchair accessible, saying they would cost about $15,000 more than the average taxi.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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