NYPD Ignores Equal Access for Wheelchair Users

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New York, NY—October 27, 2016—Today, an unprecedented class-action lawsuit was filed in federal court alleging that New York City’s police precincts are largely inaccessible to people with mobility disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”) filed the lawsuit on behalf of four individual plaintiffs who were unable to get into their precincts to make crime reports, attend community safety meetings, or otherwise access the services provided at stations throughout the five boroughs.  Two disability rights organizations, Disabled in Action and Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, are also represented in the suit.

At issue are the critical public safety services offered at police stations.  Individuals can go to station houses to seek refuge when they feel unsafe or to report crimes and file police reports.  Police stations also host other community affairs and services such as crime prevention programs, neighborhood watch meetings and drop off programs for expired medications.

Yet Plaintiffs say they are regularly confronted with insurmountable steps at entrances and no reasonable alternatives for entry.  They tell of lifts that are regularly broken or have missing keys necessary for operation, unmarked and unsafe alternate routes, front desks that they cannot see over and bathrooms that are too small for a wheelchair.  Due to these barriers, persons with mobility disabilities are systemically denied equal access to the NYC’s police stations and the programs and services that they offer to the community.

Plaintiff Jean Ryan, who cannot independently access the police station closest to her home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, said: “People without disabilities can walk right in the door of any police station, but I have to wait until a police officer comes to get me, if I can get in at all.  That is not equal access.  I complained many times, but nobody seemed to care.”

“We have members of DIA who were forced to report crimes from the sidewalk, regardless of the weather conditions,” said Anthony Trocchia, President of Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York.  “This interferes with the right to live equally and independently in the community.”

“Most people can walk into a police station for help during an emergency or to participate in all kinds of community activities without a second thought,” said Joseph G. Rappaport, Executive Director of Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled. “Why should someone who uses a wheelchair or other assistive device be denied equal access and participation?”

Rebecca Rodgers, a staff attorney at Disability Rights Advocates, said, “It is unreasonable—not to mention illegal—for the NYPD and the City of New York to ignore the requirements of the ADA on this front for over 26 years.”

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

A copy of the Complaint is available below.

About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA)

Disability Rights Advocates is one of the leading non-profit disability rights legal centers in the nation.  With offices in Berkeley and New York City, DRA’s mission is to advance equal rights and opportunities for people with all types of disabilities nationwide.  DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-change, class action cases.  July 2016 marks the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  DRA is proud to have upheld the promise of the ADA since our inception.  Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting and housing.  For more information, visit www.dralegal.org.


Rebecca Rodgers, Staff Attorney, (212) 644-8644
Michelle Caiola, Director of Litigation, (212) 644-8644