Advocates for the disabled say accessible pedestrian signals that make an audible signal for visually impaired pedestrians to let them know when it will be safe to enter a crosswalk are currently missing from about 96% of city streets.

What You Need To Know

  • Advocates for the disabled sued the city, saying that fewer than 96% of signaled intersection were equipped with devices to assist visually impaired pedestrians

  • City Hall spokesperson says the officials will continue to install Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) across the city and work with disabled community

  • Attorney for disabled community say accessible devices at traffic signals should be as common as curb cuts for physically disabled

"What it says to me is that it doesn't matter to New York City that a blind or deaf-blind pedestrian does not have access to the same information as all of the sighted people who traverse the city,” said Lori Scharff, the former president of the American Council of the Blind of New York.

She's among those welcoming a federal ruling against the city Tuesday.  

A judge found that the lack of accessible pedestrian signals, or APS devices, violates the rights of the disabled.

"Accessible pedestrian signals have been around for quite a while and in other parts of the world, they are pretty standard," said Scharff.  "We are not the norm here in the United States." 

It's up to the Department of Transportation (DOT) to install the devices. The DOT website says officials analyze metrics like off-peak traffic presence and traffic-signal patterns before an intersection gets one.

A City Hall statement released in response to the ruling said, "We will continue to install Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) across the City and are consistently working to increase access for the blind and low vision community in all facets of life."  

But critics say the city has been slow to take action, despite years of advocacy.

"It was clear the city was not going to voluntarily comply with its ADA obligations and that's sort of where we came in,” said Torie Atkinson, a disability rights advocates staff attorney.  She says the devices should be at every signal.

"We really view it as similar to curb cuts. Curb cuts were unknown in the United States before disability laws happened and now they're just a very  normal feature. We're all used to them and everyone benefits from them,” said Atkinson.

Advocates say groups will work with the city to come up with a plan to increase the number of accessible signals so that all New Yorkers can walk safely.