Justice Department joins lawsuit against City of Chicago regarding accessible pedestrian signals at intersections

Pedestrian signal at crosswalk

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The U.S. Justice Department moved to intervene in a disability discrimination lawsuit against the City of Chicago over “accessible pedestrian signals” at intersections.

The lawsuit alleges the City of Chicago fails to provide people who are blind, have low vision, or are deaf-blind with equal access to pedestrian signal information at intersections. Pedestrian signal information, such as a flashing “Walk/Don’t Walk” signal, indicates when it is safe to cross the street.

The Justice Department said since at least 2006, the city has recognized the need to install accessible pedestrian signals or APSs for pedestrians with visual disabilities. Accessible pedestrian signals (APSs) are devices that provide pedestrians with safe-crossing information in a non-visual format, such as through audible tones, speech messages, and vibrotactile surfaces.

And while the city currently provides sighted pedestrians visual crossing signals at nearly 2,700 intersections, it has installed APSs at only 15.

The proposed suit alleges that the lack of APSs at over 99 percent of the city's intersections subjects people who are blind, have low vision, or are deaf-blind to added risks and burdens not faced by sighted pedestrians, including fear of injury or death.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is taking this action to ensure that Chicagoans with disabilities are provided equal access to city services, particularly those services whose purpose is public safety,” said U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch, Jr. for the Northern District of Illinois. “We are concerned about the serious lack of accessibility to safe intersection crossings for Chicagoans who are blind, have low vision, or are deaf-blind, and we are confident that our involvement in this important case will ultimately bring a meaningful resolution to the city and its millions of residents, daily commuters, and visitors.”