American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc., v. The City of New York

Scroll to case documents Date Filed: 06/27/2018 Status:

On June 27, 2018, DRA, on behalf of the American Council of the Blind of New York (“ACBNY”) and two individual plaintiffs, filed a landmark class action lawsuit against the New York City Department of Transportation. According to the suit, New York City violated federal law by failing to systematically implement audible and tactile pedestrian signals that would make its pedestrian routes equally usable, and safer, for people who are blind, deaf-blind, or low-vision. At the time the case was filed, New York City had over 13,200 signalized intersections with signals for sighted pedestrians to convey critical safety information: WALK or DON’T WALK. Yet only 443 of those 13,200 intersections—less than 4%—had accessible pedestrian signals (APS) that convey this information to blind people. Blind and low vision pedestrians are put in danger every time they must cross a street without APS, because they may cross against the light, in the path of cars.

On July 23, 2019, the Court granted class certification for the case. On October 20, 2020, the Court ruled that the current level of inaccessibility in New York City’s streets violates the rights of people with vision disabilities. The Court ordered the parties to propose plans for remedying this discrimination through APS installation, and held three days of hearings in October and November 2021.

In a first-of-its-kind decision on December 27, 2021, the Court ruled that New York City must install APS at 10,000 intersections over the next 10 years, ultimately equip all signalized intersections with APS in the next 15 years, and prioritize installations where they are most needed. Based on the Court’s ruling, the parties, along with the United States, then negotiated a final remedial order, which the Court endorsed on March 18, 2022.

The remedial order operates in two phases. In Phase One, the city must install APS at 9,000 intersections (for a total of 10,000 intersections) over the next ten years. This will ramp up installations from 400 and 500 intersections in the first two years, respectively, to 700 intersections in the third year, to 900 in the fourth and fifth years, with the final five years surpassing that total to complete 10,000 by year ten. In Phase Two, the city must install APS at all remaining intersections by 2036. Additionally, the city must install APS pursuant to requests from people in the blind and low vision community, and prioritize those intersections that are most dangerous for blind pedestrians.

The Court has appointed an Independent Monitor to oversee the remedy and report to the Court on its progress. The Monitor’s first annual report found the city installed 498 APS in 2022 and expects to exceed its 2023 target of 500 APS. Additional information about the City’s work installing APS is available on the New York City Department of Transportation’s website.

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