For Dustin Jones, hailing a taxi is more than just flagging down a cab on the street corner or punching in his coordinates on his phone. So Jones, a wheelchair user and founder of the disability advocacy group United for Equal Access New York, has made ride-hailing expansion his issue. Specifically, the Bronx man sought to have legislation that would have provided for ride-hailing outside of New York City amended earlier this year to include provisions for 100 percent wheelchair-accessible service requirements. Ultimately, that bill failed, though for reasons beyond accessibility. “I think we’re being heard, but we’re not being heard at the levels where we should be heard,” Jones said. “That’s going to take a lot more convincing. That’s where myself and other advocates and aspiring advocates need to really come out and let the Legislature know that we’re not going to really stand for this.” The good news for Jones and others with disabilities who are civically engaged is in politics there is strength in numbers. And their ranks are growing.
A report published last month by a pair of Rutgers University professors found that the number of eligible voters with some sort of disability is on the rise both nationwide and in New York. Nationally, that group is projected to be 35.4 million people strong (roughly 16 percent of all voters) this year, and 16.4 million of them are projected to actually cast ballots. Compare that to 15.6 million people with disabilities who voted in 2012.
In New York, a projected 1.9 million eligible voters have a disability (14 percent of all voters).
“People with disabilities have been called a sleeping giant or a sleeping tiger,” said Lisa Schur, chair of the Rutgers Labor Studies and Employment Relations Department, who co-authored the study with Rutgers Management and Labor Relations professor Douglas Kruse. “Especially if there is a close election, the disability vote can make a difference.”