New York City’s crosswalks will soon become safer for the visually impaired. Thanks to a court order issued last week, the city must place “more than 9,000 signal devices at intersections” to inform blind and visually impaired pedestrians when it’s safe to cross the street, according to a report by the New York Times.
As the report notes, there are more than 13,000 intersections in the city, more than 96% of which only have visual markers—like lighted signs displaying figures and countdowns—denoting when it is safe to use a crosswalk. The signal devices for blind and visually impaired pedestrians will use “sounds and vibrations” to inform users that they can cross safely. More than two percent of New Yorkers are blind or visually impaired, according to the Times.
The order stems from a 2018 lawsuit alleging that the Bill de Blasio administration and Department of Transportation failed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. A judge ruled for the plaintiffs last year, concluding that New York City “had violated the law hundreds of times by failing to install accessible signals.” According to the Times, the city responded to the lawsuit by installing more signal devices, but the judge found its pace nonetheless fell short. The judge also stated that “The failure to install the technology more widely… impedes the independence of people who need them, by making it difficult to cross streets safely in a timely fashion.”
A lawyer for the plaintiffs praised last week’s ruling, telling the Times: “We can finally look forward to a day, not long from now, when all pedestrians will have safe access to city streets… We hope this decision is a wake-up call not just to New York City, but for every other transit agency in the country that’s been ignoring the needs of people with vision disabilities.” A spokesperson for the city, meanwhile, said in a statement that it is “carefully evaluating the court’s plan to further the city’s progress in increasing accessibility to people who are blind and visually impaired.”
More information on the federal ruling that new York City must install thousands of signal devices for blind and visually impaired pedestrians is available via the New York Times.