American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago vs. City of Chicago

Scroll to case documents Date Filed: 09/23/2019 Status:

In September 2019, DRA and Proskauer Rose LLP, on behalf of the American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago and three individual plaintiffs, filed a landmark class action lawsuit against the Chicago Department of Transportation.

The lawsuit alleges that Chicago ignores blind pedestrians in its pedestrian planning, sometimes ignoring their safety needs and sometimes actively making it harder for them to cross streets safely and independently, all in violation of federal law.

The federal Department of Justice joined the suit shortly after it was filed following its own investigation into the city’s policies and practices. In March 2022, a federal judge certified a class comprising all blind or low-vision pedestrians who use the City of Chicago’s signalized pedestrian intersections. 

In particular, Chicago has neglected to install pedestrian traffic signals that convey street crossing information to blind people through noises and/or vibrations from pedestrian signal poles.  Chicago has only 11 intersections with such accessible pedestrian signals (“APSs”), out of 2,672 intersections with pedestrian signals for people who can see.  This number—less than half of one percent—may be the worst of any major metropolitan area in the United States. 

In a decision that will reshape Chicago’s pedestrian infrastructure and lead to historic accessibility improvements for all residents, in April 2023 a federal court ruled that Chicago’s systemic, decades-long failure to incorporate APS at intersections constitutes discrimination toward blind and low vision pedestrians under federal disability rights laws and therefore Chicago must install APS when constructing or modernizing an intersection’s pedestrian signals.

Having APS installed at these intersections means that Plaintiffs who for years have resorted to taking circuitous routes to avoid particularly unsafe intersections, or who have avoided walking altogether, will have newfound security accessing a fundamental part of Chicago civic life: walking city streets.

Plaintiffs do not seek money damages. Their only focus is to ensure that the City’s signalized intersections become accessible for blind and low vision pedestrians.

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