NY1 For You: Disabled Woman's Experience At Hurricane Shelter Sparks Lawsuit
The Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York has planned a class action suit against the city after a wheelchair user said she was unable to enter an evacuation shelter during Hurricane Irene. NY1's Susan Jhun filed the following "NY1 For You" report.
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Wheelchair user Tania Morales learned the hard way when she tried to evacuate to the local city shelter during Hurricane Irene.
"The gate for the ramp was locked and they couldn't find the keys," Morales said.
"I had been told by the Mayor's Office for Emergency Management that the shelters would be accessible and they weren't," said Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York Executive Director Susan Dooha.
On Monday, CIDNY announced a class action lawsuit against the city which addresses the lack of an emergency plan that meets the needs of almost 900,000 New Yorkers with disabilities.
"The law requires that people with disabilities have full and equal access to emergency preparedness and disaster response," Dooha said.
A site survey of shelters conducted by CIDNY during Hurricane Irene found a number of barriers including dangerous ramps, locked doors and locked gates.
All of this, says Dooha, after 10 years of trying to work with the city to improve emergency preparedness for people with disabilities.
NY1 contacted the city Law Department for comment and a spokeswoman released the following statement:
"We have not seen the legal papers yet. However, once the evacuation was ordered, the City aggressively communicated the locations of the evacuation centers and also specifically targeted service providers who work with people with special needs. In addition, the City mobilized paratransit vehicles, buses, and ambulances to assist anyone who felt they needed help getting to an evacuation center. Everyone who called 311 asking for assistance evacuating was helped."
Dooha maintains there's no sense in evacuating people if they can't gain access at their destination.
"NY1 For You" will continue to follow this story.
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