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The Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C.S. § 12131 et seq.; the Rehabilitation Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C.S. § 794 et seq.; and the New York City Human Rights Law, New York City, N.Y., Admin. Code § 8-101 et seq., seeking to prevent not only intentional discrimination against people with disabilities but also — indeed, primarily — discrimination that results from "benign neglect." Moreover, these laws require that a government entity do more than provide a program on equal terms to those with and without disabilities; they require affirmative accommodations to ensure that facially neutral rules do not in practice discriminate against individuals with disabilities.
The Plaintiff class, Brooklyn Center for Independence of The Disabled, a nonprofit organization, Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York, a nonprofit organization, Gregory D. Bell, and Tania Morales, comprises all people with disabilities, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act who are within the defendant City of New York and the jurisdiction served by the defendant City's emergency preparedness programs and services. Plaintiffs contend that defendant City's emergency preparedness program failed to accommodate their needs by inadequately planning for the evacuation of people with disabilities from multi-story buildings and generally, by failing to provide a shelter system that is accessible within the meaning of the ADA. Defendant City also ignored the unique needs of people with disabilities in the event of a power outage, failed to communicate adequately with people with special needs during an emergency, and failed to account for the needs of people with disabilities in recovery operations following a disaster. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief under the ADA; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974.; and the New York City Human Rights Law, New York City Administrative Code, Section 8-101 et seq.
Did the defendant City violate the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, or the New York City Human Rights Law by failing to provide people with disabilities meaningful access to its emergency preparedness program?
The Court concluded that defendant City had violated the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and the New York City Human Rights Law by failing to provide people with disabilities meaningful access to its emergency preparedness program in several ways. The defendant city's evacuation plans did not accommodate the needs of people with disabilities with respect to high-rise evacuation and accessible transportation. Also, its shelter plans did not require that the shelter system be sufficiently accessible, either architecturally or programmatically, to accommodate people with disabilities in an emergency. The court further held that the city had no plan for ensuring that people with disabilities would be able to access the services provided by the city after an emergency and that the city's plans to distribute resources in the aftermath of a disaster did not provide for accessible communications at the facilities where resources were distributed.