Suiting Up: In DR 633, we reported on a series of class action lawsuits aimed at ensuring that people with disabilities were better provided for during emergencies. The lawsuits—filed against Washington, D.C., New York City, and Los Angeles—highlighted the need to provide consistent and specific planning to address issues such as making shelters accessible, providing emergency communications for people who are deaf and blind, and creating evacuation plans for people with mobility issues.
The lawsuits, which were filed by individuals and a coalition of advocates for people with disabilities, sought declaratory and injunctive relief for previous instances that left people with disabilities vulnerable to disaster.
Made to Order: New York City has now filed a settlement agreement in its 2011 case, in which a federal judge ruled the city had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to make necessary accommodations for people with disabilities in evacuations.
Under the settlement the city will make at least 60 shelters in the five boroughs accessible in the next three years, according to the New York Times. It also provides for a system of door-to-door canvassing after disasters to determine the critical needs of people with disabilities and a taskforce to look at high-rise evacuations, the Times reported.
The agreement was crafted in cooperation with Disability Rights Advocates, which filed the suit. Full text of the agreement can be found on DRA’s website.
Final Fitting: The settlement still needs to be approved by Judge Jesse Furman before becoming final. Once approved, however, it will result in a major change in the way emergency agencies understand their responsibilities to people with disabilities, according to a statement made by DRA.
“This case was about saving the lives of New Yorkers with disabilities,” stated DRA Senior Attorney Christine Chuang. “As a result of this agreement, New York City will now have one of the most integrated emergency plans in the country. Most importantly, the lives and safety of New Yorkers with disabilities will no longer be put unnecessarily at risk during disasters.”