Monday, April 5, 2021

USA: Justice Department moves unopposed motion to intervene as Plaintiff in a Disability Discrimination Suit Against City of Chicago Regarding Pedestrians with Vision Disabilities

Dear Colleagues,


This is a disability rights enforcement action by the Justice Department of United States of America against the City of Chicago, seeking to remedy the city’s failure to provide people who are blind, including those who are deaf-blind or have low vision, equal access to pedestrian safety information at intersection crossings, which the city provides almost exclusively through visual-only pedestrian signals.  The United States has sought declaratory, injunctive, and compensatory relief for this violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. 


Having moved an unopposed motion to intervene as a plaintiff in this disability discrimination lawsuit filed by private plaintiffs American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago, Ann Brash, Maureen Heneghan and Ray Campbell against the City of Chicago under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), the Department of Justice found in its investigation that the allegations were true.


The complaint alleges that the city of Chicago fails to provide people who are blind, have low vision, or are deaf-blind with equal access to pedestrian signal information at intersections. Pedestrian signal information, such as a flashing “Walk/Don’t Walk” signal, indicates when it is safe to cross the street. 


Accessible pedestrian signals (APSs) are devices that provide pedestrians with safe-crossing information in a non-visual format, such as through audible tones, speech messages, and vibrotactile surfaces. Since at least 2006, Chicago has recognised the need to install APSs for pedestrians with visual disabilities. Yet, while Chicago currently provides sighted pedestrians visual crossing signals at nearly 2,700 intersections, it has installed APSs at only 15 of those intersections. 


Thus over 99% of Chicago’s signalised intersections subjects people who are blind, have low vision, or are deaf-blind to added risks and burdens not faced by sighted pedestrians, including fear of injury or death which in contravening the ADA and Section 504 that require that individuals with disabilities have equal access to public services, including access to pedestrian crossing information that is critical for safety and for full participation in community life.


Petition seeks to ensure that Chicagoans with disabilities are provided equal access to city services, particularly those services whose purpose is public safety.


The motion and complaint seeking intervention were jointly filed by the Disability Rights Section of the department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois. Access the proposed motion to intervene at this link: https://www.ada.gov/acbmc/acbmc_motion.html.