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Last month, New York City launched a new dispatch system for wheelchair-accessible taxis, making it easier for handicapped visitors and locals to get around the city. Prospective passengers can book the taxis online, use a free smart phone app called Wheels on Wheels, send a text message to 646-400-0789 or call a cab the old fashioned way – dialing either 646-599-9999 (direct line) or 311 (citywide information line). Though there was a regular dispatch system for all taxis before, there was nothing sepecifically for wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

While the service is easy to use, it isn’t perfect. Since there are only around 200 handicap-accessible taxis currently part of the network, customers may have to wait 20 or 30 minutes for a cab. In addition, passengers can only pick up these cabs in Manhattan, but the taxis will travel anywhere in the five boroughs. The city hopes to add up to 2,000 more cars to its wheelchair-friendly fleet, but when this will happen remains up in the air.

Philadelphia is working on a similar project, hoping to have 300 wheelchair-accessible taxis by the end of 2012 and to make all city cabs accessible by 2016. Likewise, on Dublin, the public bus system Dublin Bus is planning for a fully-accessible fleet by the end of this year, with more than 90% of the buses already remodelled.

Since travelling with a disability can be challenging, we’ve rounded up a few more places around the world that have recently made (or are in the process of making) improvements with handicapped visitors in mind.

Smooth sailing in Turkey
Turkey is updating its sea ports, harbours and sea transportation vehicles to catch up with the country’s already handicap-accessible airports, train stations and trains. The goal of the “unhindered seas project” is to make improvements such as increasing the number of accessible toilets and the number of available resting areas for the elderly and anyone with physical handicaps.

Better buildings in Dublin and France
In Dublin, all new or newly renovated commercial or non-residential buildings  are required to pass a disability access certification process, and all government buildings are expected to be fully accessible by 2015. France has the same goal, but unlike Dublin it is not on track with its timeline. Today only about 15% of government buildings are accessible, a delay that is being blamed on the country’s economic austerity.

Updates in a winter wonderland
Just in time for ski season, Colorado’s Monarch Mountain Ski Resort is remodelling its base lodge to include a wheelchair-accessible elevator. For something a little different right outside the resort, the outfitter Monarch Dog Sled Rides offers scenic winter sled rides through the San Isabel National Forest that can accommodate people with disabilities.

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