DOJ Wants to Join ADA Suit Against Chicago for Discrimination

On Apr. 8, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion to intervene in a case brought by the American Council of The Blind of Metropolitan Chicago (ACBMC) and three of its individual members, alleging that the City of Chicago’s failure to implement accessible pedestrian signals at intersections for the blind and those with low vision is unlawful. The suit, brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, chiefly seeks injunctive relief rectifying the situation.

The original complaint was filed by ACMBC in September 2019. According to the intervention motion, the plaintiffs also filed a complaint with the DOJ. The agency investigated the matter and agreed that Chicago had violated the plaintiffs’ civil rights by “failing to provide pedestrians who are blind, deaf-blind, or have low vision with accessible street-crossing signal information at over 99 percent of the city’s street intersections currently equipped with visual-only pedestrian signal devices.” The DOJ reportedly notified Chicago of its determination on Apr. 6.

According to the DOJ’s accompanying press release, since at least 2006, Chicago recognized but failed to provide safe accessible pedestrian signals (APSs), such as audible tones, speech messages, and vibrotactile surfaces at a majority of the city’s intersections. The DOJ explains that while the city provides visual crossing signals at almost 2,700 intersections, APSs are installed at only 15 of those crossings. The suit alleges that the city’s lapse increases the “risks and burdens not faced by sighted pedestrians, including fear of injury or death.”

The AMCBC and its members are represented by Proskauer Rose LLP and Disability Rights Advocates, and the United States by the Disability Rights Section of the department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.