The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday it has moved to intervene in a lawsuit that alleged 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.
While Chicago currently provides sighted pedestrians visual crossing signals at nearly 2,700 intersections, it has installed accessible pedestrian signals at only 15 of those intersections, according to the DOJ.
APSs provide pedestrians with safe-crossing information in a non-visual format, such as through audible tones, speech messages and vibrotactile surfaces.
The disability suit alleges that the lack of APSs at more than 99% of Chicago’s signalized 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.
Kim Liddell, who is visually impaired and has a seeing-eye dog, said she's always cautious and careful when crossing intersections, especially in the city.
"Sometimes I let the signal, the light change two to three times, just to be sure," she said.
Liddell said she and her seeing-eye dog, "Vicar," have been bumped by three different vehicles.
Gary Arnold with the Progress Center for Independent Living, which serves people with disabilities, said, "It is unfortunate sometimes it comes to legal measures."
"If you make a change that improves things for disabilities, it will improve things for entire community," he said.
In a statement, the city of Chicago denied violating any federal law. The city added it does not oppose the intervention and looks forward to working with the DOJ to build upon the commitments and foundation the city has already made in the area.
"I'm sad it has to be this way, but sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease," Liddell said. "So we need to make noise, and we need to stand up and push for change and improvements."