AMITYVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Pressure is mounting to make the nation’s largest commuter rail system fully accessible for disabled riders.
Several Long Island Rail Road stations leave people who use wheelchairs and walkers stranded, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
The demands first came from one disabled veteran, Raymond Harewood, who was stranded on his scooter high atop the Amityville train station, because there’s no elevator. Fire crews had to carry him down.
“Put the elevators in. We need accessibility for everybody,” he told Gusoff.
His lone voice is now joined by a chorus of calls for the LIRR to address the 20 percent of stations without elevators or ramps. Among them, are four stations in row on the Babylon branch.
“Massapequa Park, Amityville, Copiague and Lindenhurst – there are no elevators,” New York State Sen. John E. Brooks said.
There are miles of tracks with no way for anyone in a wheelchair or walker to access them, Gusoff reported. State legislators have signed a letter urging the railroad to finally fix the gap in accessibility.
“He has to go miles on end to reach a railroad station,” Brooks said. “That’s unacceptable after 30 years.”
It’s been nearly 30 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act. The LIRR says it is in compliance with the 1990 law, which only applied to new facilities and provided no funding for upgrades.
The railroad says it, “takes accessibility very seriously and is constantly striving to improve access for all riders. Ninety percent of LIRR’s riders use a station that’s accessible… and more are on the way.”
But some disabled riders say that’s not fast enough.
“Get your act together and do what you are supposed to do,” Robert Schoenfeld, of Disabled in Action, said.
Harewood said the investment is a must, not only for those in wheelchairs.
“Those who have walkers, canes, elderly, mothers with children, people with heavy luggage,” he said.
With so many railroad upgrades now underway, advocates say it’s time for the most basic improvements, like getting all riders up to their platforms.
One-hundred six of the 124, or 85 percent, of LIRR stations are currently accessible. Five more stations are funded for accessibility improvements.
An LIRR spokesperson said 90 percent of riders use a station that’s accessible to the mobility impaired and more are on the way.