NYC emergency plan lawsuit moves forward

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The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted class certification on November 7 in a lawsuit alleging that New York City’s disaster preparedness plan violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to accommodate, and thus discriminating, against people with disabilities.

Evacuation-Sign

Emergency Preparedness

The lawsuit, which is now on behalf on the city’s estimated 900,000 people with disabilities, is set to go to trial December 10 if the parties do not reach a settlement.

“We’ve been warning the City for years that it is woefully unprepared for the needs of people with disabilities during an emergency,” said Susan Dooha, executive director of the Center for the Independence of the Disabled, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, in a news release. “The City’s response during Sandy demonstrated again – a year after Hurricane Irene – that major problems still exist. And this is what happens when the City has days of warning.

We can’t wait for people with disabilities to get hurt or die to see change.”

The lawsuit had been pending since September 2011, when CIDNY, the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled and two individuals sued the city shortly after Hurricane Irene. They are represented by Disability Rights Advocates, whom previously filed a similar lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, resulting in a first-of-its-kind finding that the city’s emergency preparedness plan violated the ADA.

The original lawsuit documents how the vast majority of New York City’s emergency shelters are inaccessible to people with disabilities.

In the news release, the plaintiffs also highlight how Hurricane Sandy proved that the city lacks an adequate evacuation plan, noting that the city’s paratransit system was shut down seven hours prior to the rest of the transportation system, prematurely closing off a potentially life-saving transportation open.

“As tragic events of the past few weeks made abundantly clear, it beyond mere conjecture that another disaster, whether natural or manmade, will occur and that it will seriously affect members of the proposed class,” the court stated in its order granting the class certification.

Disability Rights Advocates is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.