NEW YORK — A federal appeals court struck down a ruling Thursday that would have required New York City to give taxi licenses only to vehicles that are wheelchair accessible — disappointing disability advocates upset that fewer than 2 percent of city cabs can accommodate wheelchairs.
The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t require the city to demand that cabbies serve the disabled. Instead, the court ruled, in this case the ADA only bars the city Taxi & Limousine Commission from discriminating against disabled people seeking a license to drive a cab.
The law ‘‘prohibits the TLC from refusing to grant licenses to persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to own or operate a taxi,’’ the justices wrote. ‘‘It does not assist persons who are consumers of the licensees’ product.’’
The decision was a blow to disability advocates.
‘‘This is Round One of what is likely to be a lengthy battle on many fronts,’’ said Sid Wolinsky, director of litigation for Disability Rights Advocates, which represented some of the plaintiffs.