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Federal judge rules New York City violated ADA during recent emergencies

A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] ruled [text, PDF] Thursday that New York City violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) [official website; text] by failing to accommodate the needs of the city's disabled residents during recent emergencies. The lawsuit certified as a class action [NYT report] in November 2012. According to the opinion it is estimated that there are 889,219 individuals with disabilities, making up 11 percent of the population of New York City. The plaintiffs contended that:

the City's emergency preparedness program fails to accommodate their needs by, among other things, inadequately planning for the evacuation of people with disabilities, from multi-story buildings and generally; failing to provide a shelter system that is accessible within the meaning of the ADA; ignoring the unique needs of people with disabilities in the event of a power outage; failing to communicate adequately with people with special needs during an emergency; and failing to account for the needs of people with disabilities in recovery operations following a disaster.
Judge Jesse Furman acknowledged the hard work and success of the City of New York's emergency response efforts in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane but stated that the city failed to have a plan to evacuate disabled individuals, failed to provide sufficiently accessible shelters for disabled persons, and did not sufficiently inform people with disabilities of the availability and location of accessible emergency services.

The ADA has led to considerable litigation throughout the country considering the rights of citizens with a range of disabilities. In December 2012 a judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that Alabama's policy of segregating HIV-positive prisoners violates the ADA. In August 2012 the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] approved an agreement [JURIST report] between the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] and Virginia in a case dealing with the treatment of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In May 2012 the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that an employee with a claim under the ADA does not need to show that his or her disability was the sole reason he or she was fired, only that the disability was a "but-for" cause of the termination.

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