Disabled Midwood activist has problem with Kings Highway train station

Activist says there's too much space between trains and platforms

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Midwood straphanger Michele Kaplan often gets stuck on the train, but unlike many commuters, it’s not delays or track work that slow her down — it’s the space between the subway car and the platform.

Kaplan, who uses a wheelchair, says too-steep gaps at certain stations purported to be “accessible” to disabled passengers are actually impassible, leaving her trapped part-way over the tracks if she isn’t careful.

“It is an incredibly scary experience, and I am pretty fearless in my chair,” said Kaplan, who documents her struggles commuting at her blog

Kaplan is one of 60,000 handicapped straphangers who she claims are constantly inconvenienced by the inconsistent spacing between trains and platforms — and advocates for disabled commuters say the problems abound at supposedly wheelchair-friendly stations including Borough Hall, Atlantic Avenue–Barclays Center, DeKalb Avenue, and the Kings Highway B and Q stop, among others.

The Americans With Disabilities Act stipulates that the difference in height between a train and the platform cannot be more than 5/8 of an inch — but the difference can be as much as three inches at the Borough Hall station, according to disabled rights attorney and Metropolitan Transportation Authority critic Martin Coleman.

“It’s breaking the law,” Coleman says. “This is a situation they know about, and they will not take steps to address it.”

On the Long Island Rail Road — where a teenager died after falling into the gap — MTA workers help disabled passengers board trains and even lay out sturdy ramps at problematic stations.

But not the case in the subway system.

MTA spokeswoman Deidre Parker says “there should be no need for assistance” at “accessible” stations, so long as disabled passengers enter and exit the train in a designated zone marked by signs.

Conductors can assist riders if they need it — but only at 19 “accessible” stations out of the 157 stops in the borough.

“It is important to note that not every station can be modified to permit [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant gap tolerances at every train door,” Parker said.

But that’s no consolation for Kaplan, who after taking one fall too many, started a petition imploring the MTA to mend the gaps.

“This is an issue of safety,” the petition notes. “If the MTA lists a station as ‘Wheelchair Accessible’ then it needs to be wheelchair accessible, but it’s not consistently so.”

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Reader Feedback

straphanger says:
Kaplin is a hero and this story is great. Let's get this fixed, MTA!
July 31, 2012, 11:22 am
straphanger says:
KaplAN, that is.
July 31, 2012, 11:23 am
Malembi from BK says:
Just get over it.
July 31, 2012, 11:37 am
Richard Green says:
I'm a Wheelchair user who totally agrees with the problem. Except I have NO problem at the KINGS Highway B/Q station. As long as you enter in the designated wheelchair boarding area both the northbound and southbound B&Q platforms are level. I have NO PROBLEM boarding or exiting at that station.
Aug. 1, 2012, 6:01 am
JakeT from Midwood says:
Malembi - getting over it is precisely what the problem is.
Aug. 5, 2012, 9:27 am
Rachel says:
I support this effort all the way. It's a question of safety, and disabled people should be as safe as anyone else when boarding and exiting a train.
Aug. 5, 2012, 10:36 am
Anna says:
Way to go Kaplan!! 19 accessible platforms out of 157 stops is not "accessible" enough. There needs to be more consistent public transportation to all.
Aug. 5, 2012, 11:48 am
Tangy Hebrew from Coney says:
To the the guy who says "just get over it"- why don't you try getting around a city that was not built with your body in mind. Until then, maybe think about shutting the —— up? If you had to deal with only being able to get on like 12% of the stations in the system and then having to jeopardize yourself just to get onto the train, I'm sure that you'd be singing a different song.
Aug. 5, 2012, 12:18 pm
Frank from Midwood says:
I think there are better things to report on.
Aug. 5, 2012, 1:30 pm
Sarah from Queens says:
I've been sitting here trying to think of a respectful way to respond to the "get over it" person. Someone else said it much nicer than I could have.
The problem that I believe Kaplan is trying to get across is that she goes to "accessible" stations and risks breaking her chair, or injuring herself. She doesn't appear to be asking for every station to be accessible. Despite anything, she shouldn't have to risk herself and her chair to ride the train, like the other 8 million of us.
Further, I thought the MTA was trying to get rid of Access-a-ride? If their "accessible" stations were safe for people who need it, AAR would probably be used less. Don't get me started on the whole inaccessible taxi thing...
But really, why should so many of our law abiding, legally riding, working, tax paying, non-littering New York City residents be FORCED to either take the bus (which break down all the time) or risk their [probably very] expensive chairs to take the subway (when our criminals who hop the turnstiles to get on the train for free don't)?
-from a caring, non wheelchair using subway rider
Aug. 5, 2012, 1:57 pm
Gen says:
Surely at the very LEAST, MTA can fix this inconsistency. It's not like we're asking them to change all of their stations just the ones that are "accessible" which aren't that many to begin with. & what makes any story "better" than this one? This is a great story. I see 1 woman taking action to make a positive change in her community. What are you doing that is making a positive change for others?
Aug. 6, 2012, 4:23 am
Brenda from Chelsea says:
It is suprising to me that in a city as big as NYC with a transit system that millions of people rely on, that this is even an issue. NJ Transit and LIRR have a ramp that makes it easier for passengers in wheelchairs to get on/off their trains. NYC shouldn't be the last one in the tri-stat area to ensure disabled passenger's safety when getting around using public transportation. I am proud of you, Michele for doing what you need to do to help not only yourself but the millions of others who also have to deal with this issue while living in the city and trying to get around. Good luck with your fight for your right to get around just like everone else! :D
Aug. 6, 2012, 7:51 am
T.K. Small from Brooklyn Heights says:
On a number of levels, this story is fantastic. I love that Kaplan is taking on the MTA, practically single-handedly. What could be a better example of a David and Goliath conflict. Also, it is great that Kaplan isn't just sitting home with a "Poor me, I'm a cripple outlook." She is just trying to live her life like the 8 million other New Yorkers. Would people be happier if she took Access-A-Ride everywhere she goes and the taxpayers get to pay roughly $120 round-trip? Kaplan's solution is more than reasonable and definitely cost effective. If more people gave half the effort to fix societal problems, we would all be much better off. Go Kaplan!
Aug. 6, 2012, 11:05 am
Linda from Peekskill, NY says:
Go Michelle! If the metro-north can manage to get ALL its passengers on and off safely, what's the holdup with the subways?
Aug. 6, 2012, 6:46 pm
Anthony Trocchia from Brooklyn, NY says:
NYCT personnel have a "look the other way" attitude when it comes to wheelchair users in the subway system. I only tackle the subways when I have one of my muscle-men PCAs with me. The subway system most definitely is not user-friendly for motorized wheelchair users.
Aug. 10, 2012, 5:09 pm
Julia Yepez from Flatbush,Brooklyn says:
Keep on truckin, Michele! Nothing like the truth about MTA. We are the in visible army; unless we speak out! I am on a manual, so train stations are really dangerous for me. We are becoming more visible, independent, and aware of our surroundings. If the MTA want more PWD to ride their Subways? They have to make them safe first!!!
Aug. 14, 2012, 9:13 am
Julia Yepez from Flatbush,Brooklyn says:
Keep on truckin, Michele! Nothing like the truth about MTA. We are the in visible army; unless we speak out! I am on a manual, so train stations are really dangerous for me. We are becoming more visible, independent, and aware of our surroundings. If the MTA want more PWD to ride their Subways? They have to make them safe first!!!
Aug. 14, 2012, 9:17 am
Ru from Brooklyn says:
I have the same problems with the not only the MTA, but places of business in general. Aside from the subway trains, many stores, restaurants, venues and apartment buildings aren't ADA compliant, making life extremely difficult for disabled personal to become fully independent and live a normal life like able bodies. Because of the lack of accessibility inside the subway stations, I had no choice but to move to Connecticut just so I could utilize Metro-North Commuter Railroad, as well as the buses i Manhattan to get in an around the city. Problem is, those lines of transportation stop running between 12 and 2 am. So if you miss the last bus or train, you'd be stranded until 6 am. If Metro-North and MTA buses could add more stops between 2-6 am, that would be really helpful! If not, create more handicapped accessible taxis especially made for people who use power chairs and motorized scooters!
Dec. 1, 2012, 3:27 pm

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