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Yesterday’s presser on wheelchair accessible cabs at the Wilson Building was held in front of a handicapped sign: One that indicated the accessible entrance to the building was around the corner. Not to lay too much importance on symbolism, but if D.C. Council chairman Kwame Brown gets his way, taxicabs that wheelchair users can roll themselves into are also, uh, just around the corner.

“We give ’em shotgun,” boasted Fred Drasner, chairman of the Vehicle Production Group, the company that makes the van-like cars. Unlike most taxis, which, he says, “load ’em in the back like luggage.”

Jim Weisman of the United Spinal Association—a group that lobbied New York City to make buses accessible back in the ’70s—made the case that it’s just the the smart thing to do. Visitors come to D.C. with their families from all over. “People with disabilities do the same thing,” he said. “It’s just harder.”

It all sounds very good. The cars will run on natural gas (a slightly cleaner form of energy if you ignore the problems with natural gas drilling) and will be available via dispatch or hail. There’s still something to disagree about, though. In the hearing after the conference, Brown said he wants to test a small pilot program and is interested in a certificate program for companies (certificate program = medallion system) while Taxicab Commissioner Ron Linton wants to skip the pilot program and promises to get 300 on the street by the end of the year.

Of course, the grumpy cabbies remain unimpressed by either side. In the back of the hearing room, as Brown waxed on about how important it is that these kinds of cabs are on the streets, a driver behind me muttered, “Oh, shut the fuck up.”

Photo by Shani Hilton