NEW YORK — New York City violated laws designed to protect the disabled because its otherwise laudable evacuation plans for emergencies such as Hurricane Sandy or 9/11 fall short of adequately caring for about 11 percent of the city’s population, a federal judge ruled Thursday. Judge Jesse Furman said the city’s emergency preparedness plans fail to ensure that people with disabilities can evacuate before or during an emergency and fail to provide accessible shelters. He said they also do not sufficiently inform the disabled about the availability and location of accessible emergency services.
Furman, ruling in a class- action lawsuit brought by two nonprofits — the Center for the Independence of the Disabled and Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled — and two disabled people, found that the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Although the city’s evacuation plans are intended to apply to all residents, the plans plainly — and unlawfully — fail to take into account the special needs of people with disabilities,” he wrote. “Hurricane Sandy dramatically demonstrated the consequences of this failure. Plaintiffs provided substantial evidence that people with disabilities . . . remained trapped in high-rise buildings for days after the storm.”