HEALTH

Public transit in New York City to translate for disabled riders with limited English

In this Tuesday, April 5, 2016 photo, Sarah Kaplan, of Lynn, Mass., rides an elevator to board a bus outside her place of work, in Boston. Transit systems in major U.S. cities are required by federal law to provide specialized services for disabled passengers. In Boston, the deficit-laden MBTA is considering ways of reducing service for the disabled and outsourcing more of it to taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

In this Tuesday, April 5, 2016 photo, Sarah Kaplan, of Lynn, Mass., rides an elevator to board a bus outside her place of work, in Boston. Transit systems in major U.S. cities are required by federal law to provide specialized services for disabled passengers. In Boston, the deficit-laden MBTA is considering ways of reducing service for the disabled and outsourcing more of it to taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)  (Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribu)

A federal judge has preliminarily approved an agreement requiring city transit officials to translate services for disabled riders who speak limited English, a civil rights advocacy group announced Monday.

Josefa Jorge, an emigrant from the Dominican Republic, said in a statement provided by her attorneys with the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest that she felt humiliated when transit employees told her she was supposed to speak English in America.

"It's satisfying to know that this won't happen to other people in the future," she said.

The lawsuit, brought in December 2014, sought translation services for tens of thousands of people who use the Access-A-Ride program, which provides vans as an alternative to subways and buses for people who qualify.

The deal approved Friday by Judge Ronnie Abrams in Manhattan federal court requires the New York Transit Authority to translate a host of services into various languages and post information about the program in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, French Creole and Korean in Access-A-Ride offices throughout the city.

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Access-A-Ride must also provide real-time translation services in more than 100 languages by phone for riders who need it, according to the stipulation.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it was "fully committed to providing quality paratransit service."

"This settlement enhances measures that were already in place to assist customers with limited-English proficiency by bolstering Access-A-Ride's language interpretation and document translation services," MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said in a statement.

The New York Lawyers for the Public Interest will serve as a monitor to make sure transit authorities are providing appropriate language services for the estimated tens of thousands of riders who qualify for the program.

The lawsuit charged that riders missed appointments — even funerals — and couldn't schedule pickups by phone via Access-A-Ride. In less than two weeks, transit officials must post Access-A-Ride services in various languages online, according to the deal.

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