New Yorkers with Disabilities Are Denied Equitable Access to the Citys Sidewalks

Last Updated December 8th, 2015
Status: Active

In July 2014, DRA and Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP filed a class action lawsuit against the City of New York challenging widespread dangerous curb ramps and inaccessible pedestrian routes throughout New York City neighborhoods in Manhattan below 14th Street. These inaccessible pedestrian routes result in persons with mobility and vision disabilities from traveling freely and safely throughout these neighborhoods.

Access to pedestrian routes below 14th Street is critical to reaching the many government buildings, centers for civic participation, offices, tourist sites, and places of public accommodation located in that section of New York City. However, nearly 25 years after the passage of the ADA, New Yorkers with mobility and vision disabilities are excluded from this vital aspect of public life because many City sidewalks, curb cuts, and other pedestrian routes below 14th Street are impassable to persons with disabilities or contain other access barriers that place their lives in danger.

The Center for Independence of the Disabled New York (“CIDNY”) conducted a survey of 1066 curbs in Lower Manhattan that revealed that over 75% of corners had barriers presenting safety hazards to persons with mobility and vision disabilities.

For instance, almost a quarter of curbs surveyed did not contain curb cuts at all. Even when the City had installed curb cuts, many of those curb cuts were broken and crumbling, were too steep to navigate, contained high lips at the bottom of the cut, or led directly into a pothole, among other barriers to wheelchair access.

In addition, many curb ramps in Lower Manhattan have no detectable warnings to indicate to blind and low-vision pedestrians that they are about to enter the street.

The City of New York has further failed to ensure that sidewalks and pedestrian routes have a level surface free of obstacles for persons with mobility and vision disabilities to travel. As a result, persons with disabilities put their safety at risk each time that they travel within the neighborhoods below 14th Street.
As Plaintiff Dustin Jones commented, “I should not have to fear for my life every time I attempt to go downtown.”

In June 2015, a federal district judge denied New York City’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. This important development will allow persons with mobility and vision disabilities to be heard in court on the matter of safe access to curb cuts and pedestrian routes.

Because the pedestrian culture of New York is such an integral part of living in the City, and because the current state of the streetscape puts over 600,000 persons with ambulatory or vision disabilities at risk, DRA and Sheppard Mullin are committed to fighting for improvements from the City and the Department of Transportation.

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