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Mother's Death on Subway Steps Highlights Accessibility Issues Disability Advocates Have Raised for Years

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Update: On June 11, the New York City Medical Examiner determined Malaysia Goodson died due to complications from an enlarged heart, including an irregular heartbeat, and an overactive thyroid, according to NBC. She had fallen down the subway stairs with her young daughter’s strollers in her arm. Goodson’s death prompted advocates to call for more accessible subway stations in the city.

On Monday, Malaysia Goodson, 22, died after falling down the stairs of a New York City subway station while holding her daughter and a stroller full of groceries. Though it’s unclear whether Goodson died from the fall or a “medical episode,” disability advocates are calling attention to the lack of accessibility in the city’s subways in the wake of her death.

Most of the city’s subways do not have elevators and the ones that do are often under repair, according to The New York Times. Only a quarter of New York’s City’s 472 subway stations have elevators. Disabled people and other advocates have called out transit issues for decades.

Following Goodson’s death, the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York, a nonprofit that advocates for disability rights and accessibility, organized a protest, calling for full subway accessibility.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has faced multiple state and federal lawsuits since at least 2016 over noncompliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). In March, Geoffrey Berman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, joined the Bronx Independent Living Services in a lawsuit against the MTA and New York City Transit Authority.

Berman argued that the MTA and Transit Authority violated the ADA after failing to install an elevator in a Bronx subway station after spending more than 27 million in renovations.

“There is no justification for public entities to ignore the requirements of the ADA 28 years after its passage,” Berman said in a press release. “The subway system is a vital part of New York City’s transportation system, and when a subway station undergoes a complete renovation, MTA and NYCTA must comply with its obligations to make such stations accessible to the maximum extent feasible.”

People with disabilities, advocates and politicians took to Twitter to voice their anger and frustration about Goodson’s death and raise awareness about an issue many of them are aware of on a daily basis.

New York City is still investigating the cause of Goodson’s death. Her family told the New York Post she had a thyroid issue and experienced a headache the day before. Her one-year-old daughter, Rhylee, was not injured during the fall.

Originally published: January 30, 2019
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