Blind Pedestrians Sue About Exclusion from Chicago’s Pedestrian Safety Program

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Intersection in Chicago without APS
Pedestrian intersection in Chicago without APS

 

Chicago, IL—September 23, 2019—Today, Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”) and the Proskauer law firm (“Proskauer”) filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Chicago and the Chicago Department of Transportation (“CDOT”) in order to challenge the systemic lack of accessible pedestrian signals at intersections all over the city.  The lawsuit, which has been filed on behalf of the American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago (“ACBMC”) and three individual plaintiffs with vision-related disabilities, alleges that Chicago disregards blind pedestrians’ safety needs in its pedestrian planning, thereby violating federal and state civil rights laws.  Read the complaint below.  

To date, Chicago has equipped only 11 intersections with pedestrian traffic signals that make street crossing information accessible to blind people even though fully 2,672 of its intersections are signalized.  This number—less than half of one percent—may be the worst of any major metropolitan area in the United States. 

 “Chicago’s pedestrian safety program essentially pretends blind people don’t exist.  It’s time for that to come to an end,” said Jelena Kolic, a Staff Attorney at Disability Rights Advocates.  

Katie Howe, President of Plaintiff ACBMC, explained that “it’s not just a matter of safety.  Blind people have the right to navigate the city independently.” 

Plaintiff Ann Brash works in the City.  Her white cane was split apart by a passing bus because Chicago’s pedestrian signals do not tell her when to cross streets.  “I love working, but I don’t love walking to my job from Union Station. I need the same street crossing information that sighted people get.”

Plaintiff Ray Campbell, Second Vice President of the national American Council of the Blind, said, “I have traveled with a white cane for over 40 years.  Sighted people wouldn’t accept having safety information about only 11 out of 2,670 intersections. Why should I?”

Plaintiff Maureen Heneghan, a blind Chicago resident, said, “Chicago’s plans to install APS are too slow.  They won’t make Chicago street crossings accessible to me during my lifetime.”

Plaintiffs hope that the lawsuit, which alleges violations of the federal civil rights laws designed to eliminate disability-based discrimination, including Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, will rectify this issue by committing the City to systemic installation of accessible pedestrian signals that will eventually make all Chicago streets accessible to blind pedestrians. 

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About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA)

Disability Rights Advocates is one of the leading nonprofit disability rights legal centers in the nation.  With offices in Berkeley, California and New York City, DRA’s mission is to advance equal rights for people with all types of disabilities nationwide.  DRA’s work in New York City has resulted in making half of the City’s yellow taxi fleet accessible to wheelchair users, a federal court order requiring the City to make its voting sites accessible, and a victory at trial in a class-action lawsuit challenging New York City’s failure to plan for the needs of persons with disabilities in disasters such as Hurricane Sandy.  More information can be found at www.dralegal.org.

About Proskauer

We are 725+ lawyers serving clients from 13 offices globally. Proskauer’s roots in New York City go back to 1875, when the Firm was founded.  Today, the world’s leading organizations choose Proskauer as a strategic partner to drive their business forward. We work with asset managers, major sports leagues, Fortune 500 companies, entertainment industry legends and other industry-redefining companies. We are entrepreneurial, inclusive, and committed to making a difference for good.

About The American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago (ABCMC)

The American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago is a nonprofit organization seeking to promote the independence and dignity of persons with visual impairments.  A local chapter of the Illinois state affiliate of the American Council of the Blind, the American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago is one of Chicago’s leading consumer organizations of and for people who are blind or low-vision.

Contacts

Jelena Kolic, Disability Rights Advocates IL
(312) 559-4660
jkolic@dralegal.org

Christina Brandt-Young, Disability Rights Advocates NY
(212) 644-8644
cbrandt-young@dralegal.org