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Case Name American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago v. Chicago DR-IL-0006
Docket / Court 1:19-cv-06322 ( N.D. Ill. )
State/Territory Illinois
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
This class action lawsuit alleged that the City of Chicago’s failure to equip signalized street intersections with accessible pedestrian signals (ASPs) constituted illegal discrimination against Chicago’s blind residents and visitors.

ASPs are used by blind pedestrians to travel ... read more >
This class action lawsuit alleged that the City of Chicago’s failure to equip signalized street intersections with accessible pedestrian signals (ASPs) constituted illegal discrimination against Chicago’s blind residents and visitors.

ASPs are used by blind pedestrians to travel safely at intersections. In municipalities which have installed ASPs, blind pedestrians can receive information and warnings about oncoming traffic by listening to the sounds played by the signal (e.g. “Walk sign is on”) or by holding a button at the intersection which will vibrate to communicate the same information that seeing persons can read on pedestrian signals. According to the plaintiffs, of the over 2,500 signalized traffic intersections in Chicago, only 11 communicate information to people with vision related disabilities.

On September 23, 2019, plaintiffs filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (in Chicago). An amended complaint was filed on October 3, 2019. The plaintiffs included three named blind individuals and a non-profit organization American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago (ACBMC). The plaintiffs sought to represent a class of all persons with vision-related disabilities who use, or seek to use, pedestrian signals in Chicago. The plaintiffs estimated that the putative class consisted of over 60,000 Chicago residents and also encompassed many more legally or completely blind people who visit or commute to Chicago every year. In the amended complaint, the plaintiffs named the City of Chicago, the Chicago Department of Transportation, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in her official capacity, and Acting Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation Thomas Carney in his official capacity, as defendants.

Represented by Disability Rights Advocates and private counsel, the plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief. The lawsuit was brought under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The crux of the ADA claim was that the City of Chicago’s management of its street crossing signals violated its statutory non-discrimination duty to operate “programs, services, or activities” in a way that is readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities. The Section 504 claim was based on the fact that the City of Chicago receives federal financial assistance and the law mandates that no individual shall “solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 29 U.S.C. § 794(a).

In response to a motion to dismiss by the Defendants, District Judge Elaine Bucklo issued an order dated March 9, 2020, dismissing claims against the Chicago Department of Transportation, Mayor Lightfoot, and Acting Commissioner Carney. In the same order, the judge also struck the plaintiffs’ claims based on violations affecting only deaf or blind-deaf individuals. The remainder of the motion to dismiss was denied.

Amidst discovery proceedings, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a Complaint in Intervention on April 14, 2021. The DOJ complaint reasserts many of ACBMC’s allegations but, importantly, introduces a demand for compensatory damages from injuries caused by Chicago’s failure to comply with Title II and Section 504.

With the DOJ’s involvement in the case, fact discovery was extended until September 30, 2021, and expert discovery till January 31, 2022. Dispositive motions and accompanying memoranda following discovery were set for a due date of February 22, 2022.

Esteban Woo Kee - 06/07/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Sanitation/Public Works
Disability
Hearing impairment
Visual impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable Modifications
Sidewalks
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) City of Chicago
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are three named blind individuals, a non-profit organization American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago (ACBMC), and a putative class of all persons with vision-related disabilities who use, or seek to use, pedestrian signals in Chicago.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 09/23/2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Justice Department Moves to Intervene in Disability Discrimination Suit Against City of Chicago Regarding Pedestrians with Visual Disabilities
Department of Justice
Date: Apr. 8, 2021
By: Department of Justice
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
N.D. Ill.
05/24/2021
1:19-cv-06322
DR-IL-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Ill.
09/23/2019
Complaint [ECF# 1]
DR-IL-0006-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ill.
10/03/2019
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 15]
DR-IL-0006-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ill.
03/09/2020
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 43] (461 F.Supp.3d 820)
DR-IL-0006-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ill.
04/08/2021
United States' Unopposed Motion to Intervene as a Plaintiff [ECF# 74]
DR-IL-0006-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Source: U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section
N.D. Ill.
04/14/2021
Complaint in Intervention of the United States of America [ECF# 78]
DR-IL-0006-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Bucklo, Elaine E. (N.D. Ill.) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0003 | DR-IL-0006-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bond, Rebecca B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0001 | DR-IL-0006-0005
Brandt-Young, Christina (New York) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0002 | DR-IL-0006-0004 | DR-IL-0006-9000
Caiola, Michelle Anne (New York) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0002 | DR-IL-0006-0004 | DR-IL-0006-9000
Faiella, Matthew (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0001 | DR-IL-0006-0005 | DR-IL-0006-9000
Friel, Gregory (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0005
Johnson, Patrick Walter (Illinois) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0001 | DR-IL-0006-0005 | DR-IL-0006-9000
Karlan, Pamela S (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0005
Kolic, Jelena (Illinois) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0002 | DR-IL-0006-0004 | DR-IL-0006-9000
Lausch, John R. (Illinois) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0001 | DR-IL-0006-0005
Maisels, Amanda (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0001 | DR-IL-0006-0005
Morris, Holly Renae (Illinois) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0002 | DR-IL-0006-0004 | DR-IL-0006-9000
North, Sarah J (Illinois) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0001 | DR-IL-0006-0005 | DR-IL-0006-9000
Telman, Nigel F (Illinois) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0002 | DR-IL-0006-0004 | DR-IL-0006-9000
Wolfe, Kathleen P. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0001 | DR-IL-0006-0005
Young, Edward Chester (Illinois) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-0002 | DR-IL-0006-0004 | DR-IL-0006-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Caplin, Laura Elizabeth (Illinois) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-9000
Cavanaugh, Peter Hardt (Illinois) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-9000
Hansberry, John C (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-9000
Marketich, Nathan J (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-9000
Mine, Andrew S. (Illinois) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-9000
Payne, Matthew Scot (Illinois) show/hide docs
DR-IL-0006-9000

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