Victor Calise

Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities
100 Gold Street
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10038

Re: Pregnant Women and Families Need Representation

Dear Commissioner Calise: 

With an open spot on the MTA’s Paratransit Advisory Committee, a group of representatives whose purpose it is to make recommendations to the MTA concerning accessibility, I write to support the selection of a Pregnancy and Family Representative.

The majority of New Yorkers are using public transportation daily and ridership is breaking records, and the majority of people living in New York City are also women. And many of them are pregnant or parents. In fact, there is a birth in New York City every 4.4 minutes. For millions of pregnant women, accessing and riding public transportation is not a courtesy issue – it is a matter of public safety.

Pregnancy can change a woman’s body in extreme ways: Fatigue, nausea, early backaches and headaches, dizziness, a shifting center of gravity and imbalance, changes in hormones that loosen joints and ligaments and cause fluid retention leading to carpal tunnel syndrome and a poor grip, leg cramps, and blurry vision. Many women experience these health issues before pregnancy is visible and lasting through labor and delivery. These symptoms, even without more serious complications that women experience, can make public transportation unsafe while standing, especially since the average commute for New Yorkers is just over 40 minutes.

Yet as we’ve seen in the news, even when women are noticeably pregnant, they don’t always get the accommodations they need for a safe ride. Instead, they stop using public transit altogether. Many of them even quit their jobs early, and find it too difficult to return once they are toting children, thereby severely impacting their quality of life and the economic strength of New York.

It is imperative that more be done by the MTA to protect the health and safety of pregnant women and families. The transportation options we provide need to be accessible for families; we need to increase awareness efforts and practical accommodations on the subways and buses, and to make paratransit an option for those pregnant women and parents who access public transportation with great difficulty or find it completely inaccessible.

The first step toward systemic change is the inclusion of a Pregnancy and Family Representative as one of the fifteen seats at the table. I strongly urge you to give our constituency a voice to increase accessibility and ridership. Thank you for your kind attention to this important concern. I look forward to your decision.