By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Advocates for the disabled are filing a federal lawsuit to force the Philadelphia Parking Authority to provide accessible taxis to people who use wheelchairs.

They held a demonstration today to drive home the point, on the 21st anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Of the 1,600 medallion taxis on the road in Philadelphia, none is equipped with a ramp or lift to make it accessible to wheelchair users, says Nancy Salandra of the group Disabled in Action.

She says Philadelphia holds a dubious distinction: “Out of the ten largest cities in the country, we’re the only one with not one accessible taxicab.”

German Parodi, one of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit, contends the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which regulates taxis, is discriminating against wheelchair-bound people like him.

“It infringes on my independence to live freely, to visit friends, and make appointments. It’s something that we need to fix today,” he told KYW Newsradio.

Former governor Rendell vetoed state legislation in 2006 that would have added 50 wheelchair-accessible taxicabs in Philadelphia, due to unrelated issues attached to the bill.

Last year, a similar bill died in a state House committee because it was tied to a measure that would give taxi drivers access to workers’ compensation.

Parking Authority executive director Vince Fenerty, who is named in the lawsuit, says he is 100-percent in favor of accessible-taxi legislation but notes it would require state legislation to expand the number of medallion taxis in the city.

In the meantime, Fenerty says, one taxi fleet owner is now proposing converting 35 of his taxis for wheelchair access.  Fenerty says the Parking Authority is reviewing that proposal.

Reported by Steve Tawa, KYW Newsradio 1060

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