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NYC fails to accommodate disabled in storm; class action allowed

New York has faced its fair share of treacherous weather. Last year it was Irene. This year, Hurricane Sandy hit hard. While many people evacuated the area before the worst of the storm hit, not everyone has that option without help.

There are many people in New York who live with disabilities. For many of those people, this presents a real hardship when it becomes necessary to leave their homes and get to a shelter. Some say that both last year and this year, New York City failed to provide adequate assistance and accommodations for its disabled residents during these times of disaster.

On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that disability rights advocates could proceed with a class action suit against the city for not having the necessary accommodations for disabled people during the storms and other disasters.

After officials ordered evacuations when Sandy hit, an attorney for Disability Rights Advocates said there were several problems for the city's disabled residents. Some were stuck in their homes and others showed up at shelters only to find they were inaccessible. The lawsuit was filed last year after Hurricane Irene hit, and a trial is scheduled to start on Dec. 10.

Those who are suing the city hope that the case will result in major revisions to emergency preparation plans for the city that will include important accommodations for disabled residents.

When this case goes to trial next month, it will be interesting to see what happens. As we all know, individuals in New York deserve to be treated the same as all other individuals, and that includes having access to emergency shelters or a way to leave their homes safely in the event of a disaster like Hurricane Sandy or Irene. Hopefully the city and state will take a closer look at their policies to make sure those with disabilities are receiving equal treatment.

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, "Judge grants class action to disabled suing NYC," Joseph Ax, Nov. 8, 2012

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