Lawsuit Seeks to Make Sidewalks More Accessible for Disabled New Yorkers

A group of advocates have filed a suit against the city arguing that New York City’s streets are often inaccessible for the blind of those in wheelchairs. The advocates are calling this a violation of federal disability laws.

The group, Disability Rights Advocates, said the class action lawsuit aimed to “end decades of civil rights violations” in hat is “arguably, for non-disabled residents, the most pedestrian-friendly large city in the United States.”

The group says that streets and sidewalks are often inaccessible for the blind and those in wheelchairs, walkers or other travel aids. They say there are curbs without ramps at pedestrian crossing, midblock barriers like raised concrete, and broken surfaces that can endanger wheelchair and cane users.

The main focus of the advocates is in Lower Manhattan where these problems are significant.

Mayor Bill de Blasio cited recent initiatives to benefit disabled New Yorkers, including the Vision Zero plan to improve traffic safety and a settlement to make half of New York’s yellow cabs wheelchair-accessible by 2020.

Named as the defendant and commissioner of the city’s Transportation Department, Polly Trottenberg said that more than 90% of street corners had pedestrian ramps. The city has also installed 430 “detectable warning strips” to help the visually impaired.

A lawyer for Disability Rights Advocates, Julia Pinover-Kupiec , called the administration’s reaction to the lawsuit very confusing, saying it is inconsistent with the way they have acted toward the disability community on this issue.

Prior to the lawsuit, the Disability Rights Advocates said they offered to engage in a structured negotiation with the city, possible with a third-party mediator. The city refused and did not want to enter a structured negotiation without being presented a list of specific locations that could be improved. The advocates did not give them one.

“We want this problem fixed more than we want to drag them into court,” Ms. Pinover-Kupiec said. “This is a problem people face every time they leave their building every day.”

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