Chiappetta vs. New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
In October 2020, Disability Rights Advocates filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of blind New Yorkers and the American Council of the Blind, New York against New York state entities, challenging the inaccessibility of “NY-Alert,” a Mass Notification System intended to warn New Yorkers and visitors of emergencies and other critical information in a timely manner to help save lives.
In September 2021, under a settlement reached between blind advocates and the New York State Office of Information Technology Services (ITS), the state agency agreed to bring critical information on the NY-Alert website into compliance with web accessibility standards within six months, so that individuals who use screen readers can ensure they receive urgent emergency notifications, including time-sensitive alerts about dangers like hurricanes, floods, fires, and winter storms.
Plaintiffs brought the lawsuit because prior to this agreement, individuals who use screen readers to access visual information could not independently use the NY-Alert website to register for urgent alerts or to choose how to receive alerts, putting them at risk during an emergency. Blind individuals often walk and/or rely on public transportation to get around, and can be particularly affected by strong weather conditions that require sudden deviation from the routes that they are familiar with navigating. This makes it essential for them to receive weather and transportation warnings as early as possible, so that they can avoid dangerous or unfamiliar terrain.
In addition to making the existing NY-Alert website accessible, ITS will, over the next two years, conduct monthly accessibility testing, including manual user testing by a specialized third-party contractor, and provide accessibility training for employees and contractors who develop or post content to the NY-Alert website.