It’s been roughly a month since 22-year-old Malaysia Goodson tragically passed away after falling down a flight of stairs at the Seventh Avenue subway station.
Her death breaks my heart, not only because she was just a year older than I am or because she was a mother simply trying to take her baby daughter out for a fun day in the city — but also because of how easily it could have been avoided.
New York City’s subway is one of the worst public transit systems in the nation in terms of accessibility. Over 75 percent of the city’s 472 subway stations do not have elevators or other facilities that make them accessible for people who are unable to use stairs. An NYU Wagner study found that in stations that do have elevators, each elevator breaks down 53 times a year on average. In 2017, a federal lawsuit was filed against the Metropolitan Transit Authority stating that the corporation’s failure to maintain functional elevators violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in public facilities. Clearly, a lack of accessibility in buildings under the MTA’s purview is a longstanding issue, with many disabled and elderly subway riders left feeling neglected.
It is a disappointing truth that these communities are often left by the wayside by large agencies like the MTA. But this also highlights an underlying problem in New York City culture. Oftentimes, the daily rat race means that New Yorkers are rushing past each other, preoccupied with our own journeys, and as a result, we leave the less fortunate behind. Parents struggling to navigate the busy subways with their strollers and children in tow, senior citizens who are too weak to use the stairs, visually impaired people who may take a moment longer to get past the turnstiles — all of these people deserve our recognition and compassion.
As New Yorkers, we’ve all had to deal with subway delays, construction and other hassles that have made our experiences with the MTA stressful or disappointing, to say the least. But consider how daunting and downright dangerous the subway can be for those with disabilities. The subway is difficult enough to navigate even for those of us who are able-bodied — but what about for those who are unable to walk and require the use of a wheelchair? Or those who cannot see because they are visually impaired?
New York has long been celebrated as the city that never sleeps, the city that stops for no one. Instead of being so focused on your own commute or daily stresses, the next time you see someone struggling in the subway, lend a hand and help them get safely where they need to go. It’s as simple as that. Yes, it’s time for the MTA to correct its transgressions against the disabled and elderly communities — but New York, it’s time we do our part too.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Mar. 4, 2019, print edition. Email Bela Kirpalani at [email protected]