Discrimination suit brought against Chicago over pedestrians with visual disabilities

Complaint alleges that city fails to provide equal access to pedestrian signal information

April 09, 2021 / 1 minute read
pedestrian traffic signals

The Justice Department this week moved to intervene in a disability discrimination lawsuit that private plaintiffs with visual disabilities brought against the City of Chicago under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The department’s proposed complaint alleges that the city fails to provide people who are blind, have low vision, or are deaf-blind with equal access to pedestrian signal information at intersections.

Accessible pedestrian signals (APSs) are devices that provide pedestrians with safe-crossing information in a non-visual format, such as through audible tones, speech messages, and vibrotactile surfaces. The Justice Department says since at least 2006, Chicago has recognized the need to install APSs for pedestrians with visual disabilities. Yet, while Chicago currently provides sighted pedestrians visual crossing signals at nearly 2,700 intersections, it has installed APSs at only 15 of those intersections. The proposed suit alleges that the lack of APSs at over 99% of Chicago’s signalized intersections subjects people who are blind, have low vision, or are deaf-blind to added risks and burdens not faced by sighted pedestrians, including fear of injury or death. 

“The ADA and Section 504 require that individuals with disabilities have equal access to public services, including access to pedestrian crossing information that is critical for safety and for full participation in community life,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “Chicago has determined that safe-crossing information is necessary for sighted pedestrians to navigate throughout the city, and this suit seeks to ensure that the city provides the same benefit to people with visual disabilities.” 

The motion and complaint seeking intervention were jointly filed by the Disability Rights Section of the department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.

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SOURCE: U.S. Justice Department

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