Twenty-two-year-old Malaysia Goodson was found unconscious after she fell down the stairs inside a subway station at Seventh Avenue and 53rd Street on Monday, January 28, the New York Times reports. At the time, she had been trying to carry her 1-year-old daughter’s stroller down the steps to a southbound train.
Goodson had traveled to the city from Stamford, Connecticut. According to police, she was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai West hospital later that night; her daughter was found conscious and treated at the scene, WFSB reports. The baby was later reunited with her father and grandmother. According to the Times, the city’s medical examiner has yet to determine whether Goodson suffered from a medical condition or was killed by the fall.
On Wednesday, Goodson’s family spoke to the press about her death. “I can’t think straight, I’ll be honest with you,” her brother Dieshe Goodson, 23, told PIX11. “I don’t know what to do.”
“We are just shocked and I guess we all are trying to wake up from this bad dream,” her mother Tamika Goodson told Gothamist. “I’m thanking everyone for their prayers, because God knows we are going to need it.”
Malaysia Goodson’s death has drawn attention to chronic accessibility issues in New York City subway stations: Like roughly three-quarters of city subways, the station where she fell does not have an elevator. (In contrast, Boston’s subway system is about 74 percent accessible to those with disabilities.) What’s more, the elevators that do exist in NYC are often faulty — the Times previously found that each one breaks down an average of 53 times a year.
Susan Dooha, the executive director for the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY), told Jezebel, “It is devastating that [Goodson] died in this way. And especially because it could’ve been avoided.”
How inaccessible the city is impacts an overwhelming number of people, she added: “It affects mothers carrying strollers, it affects travelers to the city who are carrying luggage and it affects people who don’t yet use a wheelchair or a walker even but are unsteady on their feet or have difficulty lifting their feet as they age, or people who don’t have a lot of stamina to be climbing and descending stairs, as well as people who use walkers, canes, wheelchairs, or scooters.”
In 2017, Disability Rights Advocates filed a series of lawsuits against the MTA, calling its lack of resources for disabled people discriminatory. The lawsuit at the state level claims the MTA is violating the city’s human-rights law; the federal lawsuit claims that the MTA’s failure to maintain the existing elevators violates the Americans With Disabilities Act.
In June 2018, the MTA appointed Alex Elegudin to the role of accessibility chief, a first for the transportation agency. “We completely own up to the fact that we have to do better. We hope that we ultimately end up on the same side as those suing us, in the sense that we really do believe the system needs to be more accessible,” Elegudin, who uses a power wheelchair, told Vice in September.
The MTA released a statement about Goodson’s death on Wednesday, expressing condolences and highlighting that improving accessibility to the city’s transit system is part of its Fast Forward plan.
“This is an absolutely heartbreaking incident. While the ultimate cause of the event is being investigated by the MTA, medical examiner, and the NYPD, we know how important it is to improve accessibility in our system,” the statement read.
This post has been updated throughout.