Class of Blind Pedestrians Achieve Certification in Lawsuit Challenging Exclusion from Chicago’s Pedestrian Safety Program
Chicago, IL—March 8, 2022—A federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has approved a motion for class certification in the class action lawsuit that Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”) and Proskauer Rose LLP (“Proskauer”) filed in September 2019 against the City of Chicago and the Chicago Department of Transportation (“CDOT”) challenging the systemic lack of accessible pedestrian signals (“APS”) at intersections all over the city. This lawsuit, 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. The approved class is comprised of all blind or low-vision pedestrians who use the City of Chicago’s signalized pedestrian intersections. Read the judge’s order here.
Less than one half of one percent of all of Chicago’s 2,672 signalized intersections provides APS for blind pedestrians. This level of access may be the worst of any major metropolitan area in the United States.
“In the almost three years since we filed this lawsuit, we continue to see our clients and other blind pedestrians struggle to cross the intersections that have long been made safe for sighted pedestrians. We hope this decision proves a catalyst for some much-needed reforms,” said Jelena Kolic, a Senior Staff Attorney at Disability Rights Advocates.
Debbie Watson, President of Plaintiff ACBMC, explained that “it’s not just a matter of safety. Blind people have the right to navigate the city independently.”
Nigel Telman, partner with Proskauer Rose’s Chicago office, said, “We are proud to partner with DRA to help make it possible for visually impaired Chicagoans and visitors to safely navigate our city. We are also very pleased with the Court’s determination that this case is suitable for class treatment as it a very important first step towards obtaining much-needed relief for all blind or low-vision pedestrians who use the City of Chicago’s signalized pedestrian intersections.”
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.
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.
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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.