ALBANY — Advocates for the disabled will ask a federal court Tuesday to declare that New York City has not done enough to make its sidewalks accessible.
The advocates want the court to accept the conclusions of a report released in August that found up to 80% of sidewalk curb cuts in the city do not meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act and to order the city to come up with a plan to fix the situation.
“New York is a pedestrian city and people who use wheelchairs should be able to access every part of the city on its sidewalks,” said Daniel Brown, an attorney for the Center for Independence of the Disabled of New York.
“It’s really a travesty that it’s even an issue so many years after the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Brown, who will appear along with other advocates for the disabled at a hearing Tuesday before Judge George B. Daniels.
The hearing is the latest installment in a legal battle that stretches back to 1994 when the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association first claimed the city’s intersections were not ADA compliant. That lawsuit led to a series of agreements, including one in 2016, in which the city pledged to improve its curb cuts and pedestrian ramps.
The CIDNY and a national group, Disability Rights Advocates, argued in their own lawsuit that the agreements were inadequate because, among other reasons, they lacked a stringent timeline for the city to achieve compliance.
Daniel Brown, attorney for the Center for Independence of the Disabled of New York.
In response to the groups’ lawsuit, Daniels commissioned the report from disability rights expert Robert Burgdorf Jr., who found the vast majority of city intersections were not compliant with the ADA and that it could take 20 years for the city to meet the standards.
The report recommended the city survey pedestrian crossings for ADA compliance and devise a plan to reach compliance within eight years.
“It is truly an issue of safety as well as convenience and equal access,” said Michelle Anne Caiola, director of litigation for Disability Rights Advocates.
In legal papers, city officials insisted they are working aggressively to improve access for the disabled and described Burgdorf’s report as “completely divorced from legal and operational realities.”
“The city takes its responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act very seriously,” a city Department of Transportation spokesman told the Daily News. “Enhancing accessibility is part of the DOT’s mission, and each day we complete often complex work to improve our city’s streets for the disability community.”