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Lawsuit for City of Chicago over pedestrian signal accessibility

The City has stated its aim to be the most inclusive and accessible city in the US but the lawsuit notes that only 11 of Chicago’s 2,762 signalised intersections are accessible to pedestrians who are blind or have low vision.

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A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the City of Chicago and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), claiming there is a “systemic lack of accessible pedestrian signals (APS) at intersections all over the city”.

 

APS communicate information about the walk/don’t walk intervals at signalised intersections in non-visual formats (audible tones and vibrotactile surfaces) to pedestrians who are blind or have low vision.

 

The lawsuit, which has been filed by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) and the Proskauer law firm on behalf of the American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago (ACBMC) and three individual plaintiffs with vision-related disabilities, alleges that Chicago “disregards blind pedestrians’ safety needs in its pedestrian planning, thereby violating federal and state civil rights laws.”

 

According to the allegations, to date, Chicago has only equipped 11 of 2,762 signalised intersections with pedestrian traffic signals that make street crossing information accessible to blind people.

 

“This number – less than half of one per cent – may be the worst of any major metropolitan area in the United States,” a statement from DRA said.

 

“This number less than half of one per cent may be the worst of any major metropolitan area in the United States,” a statement from DRA said.

 

The lawsuit claims the City of Chicago and CDOT are violating federal civil rights laws designed to eliminate disability-based discrimination, including Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

Katie Howe, President of ACBMC, said: “It’s not just a matter of safety. Blind people have the right to navigate the city independently.”

 

Ongoing pilot

 

In July, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot announced that Chicago will be adding up to 100 new Accessible Pedestrian Signals at locations across the city in the next two years through a partnership between CDOT and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD).

 

Mayor Lightfoot said the initiative was part of Chicago’s goal to be "the most inclusive and accessible city in the nation".

 

Under the policy, CDOT will be incorporating APS into all new traffic signal installations, roadway reconstruction projects and signal modernisation projects.

 

CDOT and MOPD are working on a federally funded pilot project to develop best practices for the design and installation of APS. Through the pilot project, CDOT will install APS at up to 50 intersections over the next two years, with locations identified with direct input from stakeholders in the visually impaired community. A further 50 installations of APS will occur via upcoming roadway, signal modernisation and new traffic signal projects over the same period.

 

DRA said the lawsuit aims to see the City commit to systemic installation of accessible pedestrian signals that will eventually make all Chicago streets accessible to blind pedestrians.

 

The US Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center has estimated that it costs around an additional $3,600 per intersection to ensure accessibility.

 

The US Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center has estimated that it costs around an additional $3,600 per intersection to ensure accessibility.

 

The City does not comment on pending litigation but a spokesperson for CDOT told SmartCitiesWorld: "CDOT is committed to providing a safe and accessible transportation system for every resident and visitor in Chicago.

 

"To ensure people with visual impairments can travel crosswalks safely, CDOT has begun partnering with Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities to incorporate Accessible Pedestrian Signals into new construction projects. This commitment is aligned with our overall mission to improve pedestrian safety in every community throughout the City."

 

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