New Yorkers with Disabilities Neglected In City’s Emergency Planning

Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (BCID), et al. v. Mayor Bloomberg, et al
Posted February 28, 2013

More than a decade after 9/11, New Yorkers with disabilities continue to face disproportionate risks of catastrophic harm and death when disasters strike, like Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy.

People with disabilities impacted by Sandy reported a lack of evacuation, wheelchair accessible emergency shelters, and power outages, which left them stranded in their homes, without vital medical equipment, and prescription medications. Such events show that New York City lacks an adequate emergency plan that accounts for the needs of people with disabilities during an emergency.

A lawsuit filed in September of 2011 challenges the City’s discriminatory practices against men, women, and children with all types of disabilities by failing to include them in its emergency planning.

Disability Rights Advocates(DRA) and Co-counsel Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP represent the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (BCID), Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY), Tania Morales and Gregory Bell in this lawsuit.

In November of 2012, A Federal Judge granted class action status to the class of more than 900,000 members composed of all people with disabilities in the City, including people with vision, hearing, mobility, cognitive and mental health disabilities. The Court will rule on the merits of the case, which is set to go to trial on March 11, 2013.

An effective emergency preparedness and planning program for persons with disabilities must include essential components, such as:

  • Evacuating persons with mobility disabilities from their homes
  • Providing accessible transportation to shelters and back
  • Providing shelters that are architecturally accessible and identifying these to persons with disabilities
  • Providing an accessible public notification and communication plan for notifying persons with sensory disabilities before and during emergencies
  • Providing assistance to persons with disabilities during recovery after an emergency

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