Most New York City pedestrians barely notice the condition of “curb cuts” — the small ramps on every street corner that bring the sidewalk down to the level of the street. But poorly maintained curb cuts are a serious obstacle for New Yorkers with disabilities, who depend on them to travel around the city. Now a group representing disabled New Yorkers is suing under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to force the city to do a better job.
Federal law requires cities to install and maintain curb cuts to enable the disabled to navigate streets safely. Yet according to the not-for-profit Center for Independence of the Disabled, which is bringing the lawsuit, three quarters of the curb cuts they looked at below 14th street in Manhattan failed to comply with federal standards. New York City’s own study of curb cuts in the five boroughs estimated that, citywide, 79 percent are not in compliance or not in good condition.
Currently, because of the poor state of repair of the cuts, disabled New Yorkers who use wheel chairs or seated scooters must either take a long detour to find a usable curb cut, or seek the assistance of strangers on the street. Some feel physically endangered as well as robbed of their dignity. Without a safe transition from sidewalk to street, the disabled are not able to lead their lives as others do in New York City.
New York City’s Transportation Commissioner seems to acknowledge the problem and says that funds to repair the curb cuts have increased. An agreement to fix the curb cuts was reached in a different lawsuit against the city, filed by the United Spinal Association. Lawyers for that group said the agreement is not specific about where the money will come from, and there is no date for the work’s completion. Still they believe the city will keep its word. The new lawsuit by the Center for Independence of the Disabled may keep the pressure on.
Sadly, sometimes litigation is the only way to safeguard your rights and force those who violate disability laws to take corrective measures. If you or a loved one has been prevented from leading a normal life because of a lack of compliance with the ADA or New York laws for people with disabilities, an attorney skilled in disability law can help