Apr 2, 2012

City Council bills to notify the disabled

From Speaker Christine Quinn:

This past week, the City Council passed a package of bills that will help make our streets safer and more accessible for those often most affected by these changes – the blind, the visually impaired, and people requiring the use of a wheelchair.  The first bill would provide for Accessible Pedestrian Signals (audible walk/don't walk signals) at some intersections; the second bill would require Dept. of Transportation posting of major transportaiton projects, bicycle lanes, and more. The third bill would require the taxi passenger's bill of right to include the right to ask for a wheelchair-accessible cab. 

The first bill, Intro. 183, sponsored by Council Member Gale Brewer, requires the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish an Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) program.  APS's are necessary and potentially life-saving, as they audibly notify those with visual impairments when it is safe to cross the street.  Under the program, DOT will work with the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, advocates and members of the visually impaired community to identify intersections that present the greatest crossing difficulty for visually impaired people.  

Intro. 183 also requires DOT to install an accessible pedestrian signal at each corner of 25 intersections every year, beginning this year.  There will be consistent examination of the program: DOT must analyze the program's progress annually, and post a report on its website, identifying 50 intersections in need of these signals while also exploring ways to expand the program.  

Finally, DOT must post on its website the locations of all accessible pedestrian signals sorted by community and Council district.

Our second bill, Intro. 745, sponsored by Council Member James Vacca, goes in tandem with the first as it requires DOT to post on its website, in a format accessible to people with disabilities, the location of all past and future major transportation projects, as well as past and future installations or removals of bicycle lanes, pedestrian plazas, and several categories of signals, including APS. 

This bill will ensure that disabled individuals are aware of ongoing changes to city streets and of those that will be made in the future.  This notification will be helpful to all New Yorkers, especially those with visual impairments and the elderly, so that they can make necessary arrangements to safely travel throughout the city.

The third and final bill, Intro. 449, sponsored by Council Member G. Oliver Koppell, is related to the livery passenger bill of rights.  Currently, a passenger bill of rights must be posted in all livery vehicles.  Intro. 449 will add a much-needed provision to the bill, informing passengers that they are entitled to request a wheelchair accessible vehicle and receive service equivalent to non-wheelchair users. 

We would like to thank Council Member Brewer and all our colleagues for their hard work and support getting these important measures passed.  Special thanks as well to all of the advocates who worked closely with us on these issues.   

These bills, which we expect Mayor Bloomberg to sign into law shortly, will help make our streets safer and free of obstacles as we continue our efforts to help make sure the City stays accessible for all New Yorkers.

If you have any questions or comments about the information above, please don't hesitate to contact Lyle Frank, counsel to the Council's Transportation Committee.  He can be reached by phone at (212) 788-9188 or by email at lfrank@council.nyc.gov.  You can also send your questions and comments to us directly at speakerquinn@council.nyc.gov

Thanks so much, and we hope to be in touch again soon with additional news and updates.  

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