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Crosswalks In New York To Become Safer For People With Vision Disabilities

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Thousands of new crosswalk signals will be installed in New York City in coming years that are intended to make it safer and easier for blind and low vision pedestrians. A federal court ruled that the city must install accessible pedestrian signals at 10,000 intersections over the next 10 years and at all remaining intersections by 2036, and should prioritize the installations at intersections that are most dangerous for walkers with vision disabilities.

The news to “remake” New York City’s streetscape was announced earlier this month by Disability Rights Advocates, a nonprofit legal center that supports people with disabilities nationwide. 

“We are delighted that the Court has recognized the need for blind pedestrians to have the same access to safe crossing information available to sighted pedestrians,” Lori Scharff of the American Council of the Blind of New York, plaintiff in the case, said in a statement. Her organization has “advocated for decades to fix New York City’s widespread inaccessibility to blind and Deafblind pedestrians, and now it’s finally going to happen in our lifetimes,” she said.

(An accessible pedestrian signal, or APS, is a push-button device attached to a crosswalk that conveys visual crossing information in an audible and vibro-tactile format.)

Calling it a first-of-its kind decision, Disability Rights Advocates said the court’s order follows a ruling last year that the City of New York’s decades-long practice of failing to install accessible pedestrian signals violates the civil rights of people with disabilities. 

Currently,  only about 749 of the city’s nearly 13,500 intersections with signals for sighted pedestrians—about  5%— convey safety information for blind and low vision pedestrians. 

In addition to enhancing safety, the new ruling is expected to make it easier for people with vision disabilities to become more independent as they navigate city streets. They will no longer have to: rely on the good will of strangers to help them across the street, be made to delay their travel by waiting at several lights to make sure they are crossing with others, or take circuitous routes to avoid particularly unsafe intersections, the advocacy group said.

Torie Atkinson, staff attorney at Disability Rights Advocates, in a statement said that she and colleagues hope the action is a wake-up call, not just for New York City, but for other transit agencies in the country that have been ignoring the needs of people with vision disabilities.

“As someone who is Deafblind and requires tactile information to safely cross the streets, I am happy with the Court’s ruling,” Christina Curry, a plaintiff, said in a statement. “On a daily basis I have to deal with trying not to get hit by cars because there is no APS telling me when it is safe to cross. Installing so many APS over the next 10 years means that I and tens of thousands of Deafblind New Yorkers will have access to street crossing information and be able to travel safely, freely and independently throughout the city.”

For more information, click here and here.


Thousands of new crosswalk signals will be installed in New York City in coming years that are intended to make it safer and easier for blind and low vision pedestrians. A federal court ruled that the city must install accessible pedestrian signals at 10,000 intersections over the next 10 years and at all remaining intersections by 2036, and should prioritize the installations at intersections that are most dangerous for walkers with vision disabilities.

The news to “remake” New York City’s streetscape was announced earlier this month by Disability Rights Advocates, a nonprofit legal center that supports people with disabilities nationwide. 

“We are delighted that the Court has recognized the need for blind pedestrians to have the same access to safe crossing information available to sighted pedestrians,” Lori Scharff of the American Council of the Blind of New York, plaintiff in the case, said in a statement. Her organization has “advocated for decades to fix New York City’s widespread inaccessibility to blind and Deafblind pedestrians, and now it’s finally going to happen in our lifetimes,” she said.

(An accessible pedestrian signal, or APS, is a push-button device attached to a crosswalk that conveys visual crossing information in an audible and vibro-tactile format.)

Calling it a first-of-its kind decision, Disability Rights Advocates said the court’s order follows a ruling last year that the City of New York’s decades-long practice of failing to install accessible pedestrian signals violates the civil rights of people with disabilities. 

Currently,  only about 749 of the city’s nearly 13,500 intersections with signals for sighted pedestrians—about  5%— convey safety information for blind and low vision pedestrians. 

In addition to enhancing safety, the new ruling is expected to make it easier for people with vision disabilities to become more independent as they navigate city streets. They will no longer have to: rely on the good will of strangers to help them across the street, be made to delay their travel by waiting at several lights to make sure they are crossing with others, or take circuitous routes to avoid particularly unsafe intersections, the advocacy group said.

Torie Atkinson, staff attorney at Disability Rights Advocates, in a statement said that she and colleagues hope the action is a wake-up call, not just for New York City, but for other transit agencies in the country that have been ignoring the needs of people with vision disabilities.

“As someone who is Deafblind and requires tactile information to safely cross the streets, I am happy with the Court’s ruling,” Christina Curry, a plaintiff, said in a statement. “On a daily basis I have to deal with trying not to get hit by cars because there is no APS telling me when it is safe to cross. Installing so many APS over the next 10 years means that I and tens of thousands of Deafblind New Yorkers will have access to street crossing information and be able to travel safely, freely and independently throughout the city.”

For more information, click here and here.

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