Showing posts with label Inaccessible street crossings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Inaccessible street crossings. Show all posts

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.



Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Manhattan Federal Judge Paul Engelmayer rules "NYC has violated the ADA by not installing accessible pedestrian signlas for the blind."

Dear Colleages, 

A federal lawsuit, brought by the the American Council of the Blind in 2018, sued NYC Govt. on behalf of plaintiffs Michael Golfo and Christina Curry, claiming that out of the city’s 13,000 pedestrian traffic signals, just over 2 percent conveyed information in a way that is accessible to blind pedestrians. 

The lawsuit argued that the city’s Department of Transportation violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by neglecting to add audible features to crosswalk signals that let visually impaired people know when they have the traffic signal. There are about 205,000 blind or otherwise visually-impaired people who live in the city and face this inaccessible and hostile environement. 

The arguments have found favour with the District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer and on 20 Oct 2020, the court ruled  the current “near-total absence” of accessible crossing information violates the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the federal disability law that preceded the ADA.

The tuesday ruling notes that blind pedestrians in New York will typically stop at the curb and assume they are at a point where they can cross the street. Without any accessible indicator of a crossing, however, blind pedestrians cross somewhere other than the crosswalk 30 percent of the time. This leaves them to rely on other auditory cues, which is prohibitively difficult with New York’s level of ambient noise. 

In particular, Engelmayer ruled the city had failed to equip traffic signals with accessible pedestrian signals — APS for short — which include alarms or other audible alerts. The Court held that the absence of non-visual crossing information at more than 95% of the City’s signalized intersections denies plaintiffs meaningful access to the City’s signalized intersections and the pedestrian grid, in violation of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act,” Engelmayer wrote.

“The Court further holds that some, but not all, of the City’s projects with respect to traffic signals gave rise to a duty under these statutes to add APS [Accessible Pedestrian Signals]—a duty that the City has largely breached.”

The Court ordered  the NYC lawyers to seek an agreement with petitioners to make more intersections safe for pedestrians who cannot see. The two sides must submit a letter to the court by Oct. 30 laying out a path forward to come to a resolution, which could include benchmarks and deadlines for adding APS to street signals.   Though, the court's ruling itself does not specify how many signals must be installed.

Mayor de Blasio spokeswoman Laura Feyer said the city is already working to expand accessibility for blind people at crosswalks — but declined to provide a timeline for the installation of more infrastructure to make good on the judge’s ruling. 

“The city is dedicated to making our streets more accessible to all New Yorkers with and without disabilities, including those who are blind or have low vision,”  “We will continue to install APS across the city and are consistently working to increase access for the blind and low vision community in all facets of life.”  said Feyer.

Sources: 

1. pressfrom dot info

2. NYDailyNewsdotcom