City's Treatment of Disabled During Disasters to be Scrutinized During Trial in Class Action Lawsuit

Monday, March 11, 2013

Opening arguments begin today in a federal trial that is expected to shine a spotlight on how disabled New Yorkers fared during recent disasters such as Hurricane Irene and Sandy. The trial stems from a class action lawsuit filed in September of 2011 by the group, Disability Rights Advocates.  The group alleges the city's 900,000 disabled people are largely left out of disaster preparedness plans.

Lawyers for the disabled say the trial they will highlight problems that occurred during both Tropical Storm Irene and Sandy, including the city's alleged failure to properly locate and then rescue disabled people who found themselves trapped in freezing public housing high rises and other tall buildings after the power went out and elevators stopped working. 

Advocates also say the city was too quick to shut down its access-a-ride service, a transportation system that picks up disabled people, leaving many stranded and unable to evacuate prior to the storm. The evacuation shelters were also criticized for not being wheelchair accessible.

Lawyers for the city said they strongly object to the allegations being made and would vigorously defend the city's emergency response. 

"The city's emergency preparedness plans were carefully developed to serve all New Yorkers - including people with disabilities, whose needs were integrated into every stage of emergency planning," said Senior Counsel Martha Calhoun in a written statement.

Disabled people who suffered hardships are expected to testify and so are high ranking officials from the city's Office of Emergency Management, the NYPD and the Fire Department . The trial is scheduled to last two weeks.  Lawyers for the disabled say they are not seeking monetary compensation but rather an improved disaster plan that meets the special needs of the city's disabled.




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Comments [3]

cassandra floros from NYC

The solution is simple.: administration must stop being wimps and RAISE TAXES to pay for necessary assets. NYC must buy all the Paratrasit vehicles needed to evacuate everyone with a disability before the next hurricane and also use the same vehicles to evacuate everyone who ignores the evacuation order and then realizes once the storm hits that the surge damages building circuit boards so that power will be out for weeks. By the way NPR reported that a survey after Sandy showed 71% of polled residents in the danger zone knew about the evacuation order but decided to stay put. MAKE Evacuation ORDERS MANDATORY and authorize NYPD to escort resident out if they fail to listen. The judge in the case realizes how difficult planning for NYC is why cant all New Yorker's accept that if government is responsible to take care of all citizens then all residents must HELP PAY for this peace of mind
Also the Fire department went door to checking who wanted to evacuate after (details in the City's posted after Sandy report)for a couple of days after Sandy hit. Why should firemen ask if people with disabilities on high floors and building without power want to evacuate?? People with disabilities should just be escorted out for their own safety if they agree or not.

Nov. 11 2013 06:47 AM
Ed RosenBerg from Cape May Court House, N.J.

"Lawyers for the disabled say they are not seeking monetary compensation but rather an improved disaster plan that meets the special needs of the city's disabled."

I hope its inclusion is already in place. If not, an improved disaster plan, I am sure, would be created if New York's Disabled Community was directly and significantly involved in its development as members of any disaster planning group.

Mar. 11 2013 02:21 PM
Janice Schacter Lintz from Manhattan

Does it take a disaster for people to notice how people with disabilities are regularly treated by the City?

Disabilities are not about them but are about us. New museums are being built in this city without access for people with hearing loss who regularly receive crumbs. This is a city that can rate restaurants for health department violations. What about ADA compliance? What is our City's Commisssioner of Cultural Affairs doing to ensure our city's museums are accessible for people with hearing loss? Why does it take a mom who works for free to ensure our city's museums are accessible? Time for the city to acknowledge people with disabilities in a meaningful way and ensure compliance with the ADA.

Janice Schacter Lintz, chair, Hearing Access Program

Mar. 11 2013 12:33 PM

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