American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc., v. The City of New York
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 violates 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. On July 23, 2019, the Court granted class certification for the case.
New York City has 13,000 intersections with pedestrian signals for people who can see, but only 317 intersections—2.4%—have accessible pedestrian signals (“APSs”) usable by blind men and women. APS technology conveys street crossing information through noises or vibrations from pedestrian signal poles. Currently the City is installing APSs in only 75 intersections per year. At that rate, it would take 170 years to replace all of the City’s pedestrian signals with APSs.
Over 210,000 residents of NYC have visual disabilities, and tens of thousands more visit or commute into the City annually. New York’s high population density, high vehicle density, complex and unpredictable street intersections, and high background noise levels make walking extremely dangerous for those who primarily perceive traffic safety by ear. Competing sources of noise in New York City are neverending: Construction projects, building ventilation systems, garbage collection, subway and commuter trains entering and leaving stations, and the noise of other people and vehicles on the street. Meanwhile, bicycles and hybrid cars are practically silent but no less dangerous to blind pedestrians.
Plaintiffs do not seek money damages. Their goal is to ensure that, with a comprehensive system of APSs, the city’s sidewalks will be safer for the blind, deaf-blind, and visually impaired.