On October 20, 2020, Southern District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer found that New York City was liable for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the New York City Human Rights Law for its failure to provide accessible signals for blind pedestrians. According to Disability Rights Activists, the organization representing the plaintiffs, there are more than 13,200 intersections with signals for sighted pedestrians such as “Walk” or “Don’t Walk.” However, of those, only 443 convey non-visual information such as audible tones or speech messages to blind or visually impaired pedestrians.
In his decision, Judge Engelmayer wrote, “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 the Rehabilitation Act.” Further noting, “the city has not met – or even attempted to meet – its burden of showing that the installation of additional [accessible pedestrian signals] would constitute an undue financial or administrative burden or fundamentally alter the nature of any city service, program or activity.”
The Court’s decision regarding the “near-total absence” of accessible crossing information is a big win for the approximate 205,000 blind and visually impaired people who live in New York City as the city will be forced to ramp up its commitment to keeping all pedestrians, including blind and visually impaired pedestrians, safe. The next step is for the Court, New York City, and the Plaintiffs to determine a remedy for the violations and resolve the Plaintiffs’ claims.
The case caption is American Council of the Blind of New York Inc., et al. v. City of New York, et al., case number 1:18-cv-05792, Southern District of New York.
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About Camilo Burr
Camilo Burr is an Associate in Faruqi & Faruqi’s New York office and focuses his practice on employment law and wage and hour class action litigation.