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.
Status: Active
Posted August 22, 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, more than a year before Sandy, 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. 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.

In March of 2013, the case went to trial – the first of its kind in the country – and demonstrated that disabled and elderly New Yorkers suffered needlessly in emergencies such as Hurricanes Irene and Sandy due to the City’s failure to plan for its most vulnerable populations.

In May of 2013, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, on behalf of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), filed a statement of interest that supports Plaintiffs’ position in the case. The DOJ’s statement of interest held that: “Unfortunately, despite the obvious importance of accounting for the unique needs of individuals with disabilities in planning for emergencies, New York City’s emergency plans, like many state and local emergency plans throughout the nation, fail to do so…..¶Plaintiffs presented significant evidence at trial in support of their claim that the City’s emergency plans, in many areas, exclude individuals with disabilities from benefitting equally from the City’s services, and fail to comply with the [ADA’s] regulations.”

The Court will rule on the merits of the case.

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