February 23, 2021—New York, NY—Yesterday the New York Supreme Court certified a class of all people with disabilities for whom the use of stairs is difficult or impossible and who are therefore unable to access over 75% of the New York City subway. Fewer than 25% of the New York City subway’s 472 stations provide stair-free access, meaning the MTA excludes hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers with mobility disabilities each day from this vital system. The Court’s order appointed Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York, Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, Bronx Independent Living Services, Harlem Independent Living Center, Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York, New York StateWide Senior Action Council, Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, Dustin Jones, and Chris Pangilinan as class representatives to represent and zealously advocate for the rights of all people affected by this discriminatory exclusion. The order also appointed Disability Rights Advocates and Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP as class counsel.
This decision allows a civil rights lawsuit filed by a broad coalition of disability rights groups to be addressed on behalf of not just the plaintiffs, but all New Yorkers with disabilities who cannot access the subway.
The class action lawsuit was filed in April 2017, by Disability Rights Advocates and co-counsel Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP alleging the MTA and the City of New York are discriminating by maintaining a vastly inaccessible subway system. The plaintiffs are made up of a coalition of six disability rights organizations and three individuals who use wheelchairs. To read the complaint, click here.
“It’s beyond time for the MTA to commit to making the subway system accessible to the more than half a million class members who have been unfairly denied access to the greatest transit system in the world,” said Torie Atkinson, Staff Attorney at Disability Rights Advocates.
“Access to subways is a must in New York City for people with disabilities who want to go to school, work, visit with family and friends and do all the things that people with no disability take for granted,” said Susan Dooha, executive director for Center for the Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY). “Today’s class certification of CIDNY and our colleagues is a key step forward in our fight for equality for all New Yorkers.”
“BCID takes its role as a class representative very seriously, and we will continue to work with the rest of the disability community to advocate for the basic civil right to travel freely,” said Joe Rappaport, executive director of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (BCID). “Now the MTA has a choice: Continue to play games with the lives of people with disabilities by dragging out this case even more, or settle this suit with a legally binding commitment to transform the subways so they are fully accessible.”
“Disabled In Action has fought to eliminate barriers to full equality for people with disabilities for more than 50 years, and is proud to do so here on behalf of all New Yorkers,” said Jean Ryan of Disabled In Action New York. “All our members need elevators in the subways, and we need elevators in all stations. Elevators are for everyone.”
“BILS is pleased with the certification in our class action case and we are ready to move forward on this very important case,” said Brett Eisenberg, Executive Director of Bronx Independent Living Services (BILS). “We all have been working tirelessly for so long and will not stop our work until we have a fully accessible subway system that works.”
About Bronx Independent Living Services (BILS):
Founded in 1983, Bronx Independent Living Services (BILS) is a consumer-based, non-profit organization providing services and advocacy for independent living for individuals with disabilities. BILS’s mission is to ensure full integration, independence, and equal opportunity for all people with disabilities by removing barriers to the social, economic, cultural, and civic life of the community. For more information, visit www.bils.org.
About Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (BCID):
The Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, founded in 1956, is part of the independent living movement, which seeks to empower all people with disabilities to live full, independent lives. Our staff, composed largely of people with disabilities, offers services and runs advocacy campaigns to make housing, transportation and other aspects of daily living accessible to all. For more information, visit www.bcid.org.
About Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY):
The Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York is a leading advocate for people with disabilities in New York City. It was founded in 1978 to ensure full integration, independence and equal opportunity for all people with disabilities by removing barriers to the social, economic, cultural and civic life of the community. For more information, visit www.cidny.org.
About Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York (DIA):
Founded in 1970, Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York is a democratic, nonprofit membership organization consist primarily of and is directed by people with disabilities. DIA is a civil rights organization committed to ending discrimination against people with disabilities. DIA fully embraces the empowering motto “Nothing about us, without us!” For more information, visit www.disabledinaction.org.
About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA):
Disability Rights Advocates is one of the leading nonprofit disability rights legal centers in the nation. With offices in Berkeley, California and New York City, DRA’s mission is to advance equal rights for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA’s work in New York City has resulted in making half of the City’s yellow taxi fleet accessible to wheelchair users, a federal court order requiring the City to make its voting sites accessible, and a victory at trial in a class-action lawsuit challenging New York City’s failure to plan for the needs of persons with disabilities in disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. More information can be found at www.dralegal.org.
About Harlem Independent Living Center (HILC):
Harlem Independent Living Center was incorporated on May 31, 1990 to provide access to independent living services to these un-served and underserved individuals and to expand the system of independent living available to all New Yorkers. HILC assists the communities of people with disabilities in achieving optimal independence through culturally and linguistically appropriate services by advocating, educating, empowering and being a community change catalyst. For more information, visit www.hilc.org.
About New York StateWide Senior Action Council:
Founded in 1972, StateWide’s mission is to achieve through united action the dignity, well-being and security of all senior citizens of New York State. StateWide is a grassroots membership organization of individual senior citizens and senior citizen clubs throughout New York State. StateWide works to achieve its mission through trainings, educational workshops, legislative advocacy, direct consumer assistance, and monitoring programs and services for the elderly of New York State.
About Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP:
Sheppard Mullin is a full-service Global 100 firm with more than 900 attorneys in 15 offices located in the United States, Europe and Asia. Since 1927, industry-leading companies have turned to Sheppard Mullin to handle corporate and technology matters, high-stakes litigation and complex financial transactions. In the U.S., the firm’s clients include almost half of the Fortune 100. For more information, please visit www.sheppardmullin.com.