Implementing Civil Rights Law — CIDNY’s Landmark Cases
When advocacy and negotiation do not resolve an issue, we provide comprehensive research, testimony, and story collection to support litigation, as well as acting as plaintiffs in cases that affect the rights of people with disabilities. We identify issues based on our own experiences as people with disabilities and from what we hear from our participants.
Curb Cut Case – Settlement Agreement
A settlement agreement was reached in March 2019. CIDNY’s Executive Director, Susan Dooha, responded to the news: “Sometimes, the way to get across the street is through the courtroom. For people who are blind and people who use walkers and wheelchairs,it shouldn’t be necessary to take your life in your hands while crossing the street just to go to your job, your classes, or go out with friends or family. Finally, almost 30 years after passage of the law that says so, safer streets are going to happen.” See the agreement and press release.
Report by the Court’s Special Master
After years of advocacy, conducting surveys, and educating lawmakers about the lack of accessible curb cuts (or curb ramps), we joined with other organizations to object to a proposed settlement on curb cuts.
In August 2017, the Special Master appointed by Federal Judge Daniels delivered his assessment and recommendations from his review of the proposed settlement on curb cuts. CIDNY, among other organizations, had objected to the settlement because it did not require the City to establish and meet deadlines, did not provide specific direction on complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and did not provide any monitoring or consequences to ensure that the City complies with any settlement and the ADA. We provided testimony to the court to object to the settlement, and provided our surveys and our participants’ statements of concern.
Subway Elevator Access
After years of advocating and collecting stories about the impact of lack of subway elevators and delays for repairs on people with disabilities, CIDNY became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit to improve access.
According to HUD statistics, at least 40 percent of the homeless population are people with disabilities.
While it is well known that some people who have mental health disabilities end up in shelters, it is not often considered that people with physical disabilities, people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, people who are blind or low vision, and people with other disabilities also end up in shelters. These people often end up in shelters because of their high poverty rates, high rent burdens, and lack of stable, affordable housing.
In October 2014, CIDNY sent a demand letter to the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS). It described how New Yorkers are deprived of their civil rights in the following ways, based on a review of the experiences of the people with disabilities who work with us. We entered into settlement talks together with HRA and our partners, the Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless. In 2017, New York City agreed to a settlement that will require them to make shelters accessible and to provide disability-related accommodations.
Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action Concerning Access to Shelter for Individuals with Disabilities in the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) Shelter System (English) (Español)
In 2012, Hurricane Sandy once again brought to the forefront how New York City overlooked people with disabilities in emergency management. Hurricane Sandy added new urgency and credibility to our lawsuit, filed in 2011, against the City for its lack of planning for people with disabilities in emergencies and disasters. CIDNY and our lawyers at Disability Rights Advocates and Sheppard Mullin won this landmark case in federal court.
On March 6, 2014, New York City agreed to and the Federal District Court approved, settlement agreements concerning the evacuation of high rises, shelter accessibility, communications, canvassing, transportation, and disability representation in emergency preparedness planning. The agreements are the most sweeping and detailed in the nation, standing as a landmark that will guide state and local planners nationwide. (To see details of the court case and remedies, please go here.)
Blind voters in New York will now have access to websites operated by the State Board of Elections (BOE) and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In a settlement just reached by blind voters, advocates and the two state agencies, the BOE and DMV have agreed to ensure fully accessible voter registration by the end of 2019. The agreement resolves a lawsuit brought in 2016 by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the Center for the Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY), and two individual blind plaintiffs, Eva Eason and Meghan Parker. The Plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union Disability Rights Program, Brown Goldstein & Levy, LLP, and Disability Rights Advocates. See also 257 Settlement Agreement and Stipulated Order of Dismissal ACE and NY Voting Settlement press release.
Three and a half years after a federal judge ruled that the NYC Board of Elections was not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, in part because of evidence supplied by CIDNY’s polling site surveys, we still see access problems at polling sites. Voting is a fundamental right in our electoral democracy and the means by which voters can communicate their concerns to their government. With over 900,000 people living in New York City with disabilities, the NYC BOE must resolve the issues and impediments that confront voters with disabilities. Failing to do so disenfranchises a significant part of our community and discourages voters with disabilities to be active participants in their government.
CIDNY surveyed polling sites throughout the City’s five boroughs on Election Day in 2015 and 2016, and we still saw problems with ramps, signage, entryways, and pathways. We continue to apprise NYCBOE and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit of the results of our surveys.
CIDNY is a member of Taxis for All, which was one of the organizations that filed suit in 2011 against the city for lack of accessible cabs. In 2014, Judge George Daniels ruled that 50 percent of the city’s taxi fleet must be wheelchair-accessible by 2020. The case was Christopher Noel et al v. New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 11-00237.
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