‘It Robs You Of Your Dignity:’ Advocates For Disabled Sue City Over Defective Curb Cuts

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — More than 25 years after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act — which gave the disabled the right to full accessibility — some claimed they’ve been denied that basic right.

As CBS2’s Kristine Johnson reported, they claim they’ve been put in harm’s way because of the city’s failure to meet its responsibilities, and now they’re fighting back.

Monica Bartley is disabled, and tries to live independently, but the dismal condition of curb cuts makes it nearly impossible.

“It’s like I want to throw my hands up in the air. It’s like here’s another curb cut that I can’t navigate,” she said.

Most have never taken notice of the ramps, but they are vital for people with disabilities to get from one side of the street to the other safely. Federal law requires cities to install and maintain them.

Watching Monica try to get around, it appears NYC hasn’t been doing its job.

“That was just too steep,” she said of one cut.

When she’s not able to cross the street safely, she either has to take the long way around or rely on the kindness of strangers.

“It robs you of your dignity when you have to ask for help like that,” she said.

The ramps she said, are ‘a wall…a big barrier.’

Bartley works at the Center for Independence of the Disabled, a group suing the city claiming 75 percent of cuts they surveyed below 14th Street don’t meet federal standards.

“It’s really very frustrating, in fact,” Bartley said.

In fact, it’s a problem in all five boroughs. A study done by the city estimated that 79 percent of all curb cuts are defective or not compliant.

Attorney Michelle Cialoa represents the center.

“The lack of compliance is stunning, for a city this size with the number of resources New York City has, there really is no explanation as to why the cuts are in this situation,” she said.

City Transportation Commissioner, Polly Trottenberg said the city is on it, and that money for repairs has doubled.

“We’re putting, now, a lot of resources into addressing the problem. We want to make it so that New Yorkers can get around on our sidewalks,” she said.

Until then, Monica’s fight to live her life without barriers remains an uphill battle.

“I want to live a full life like everybody else, like every New Yorker who you see walking along the road without any problem,” she said.

An agreement to fix the curb cuts has been reached with the city in a different lawsuit, but lawyers for the center said it’s not specific about where the money will come from, and has no date for the work’s completion.

An attorney for the group that filed the other case, the United Spinal Association, said he has no reason to believe that the city will not keep its word to fix the curbs, and that work has already begun.

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