New York City Agrees to Make Accessibility Modifications to Facilities and Provide Accommodations to Inmates with Disabilities
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has reached a settlement with the City of New York (“the City”), the New York City Department of Correction (“DOC”), and the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (“HHC”) to resolve its investigation into violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the agreement, the City, DOC, and HHC must provide inmates with disabilities equal access to services, programs, and activities by, among other things, timely providing inmates with needed accommodations, including auxiliary aids and services, assistive devices, and medical equipment. In addition, DOC has agreed to make hundreds of architectural modifications to the Rikers Island units that house inmates with significant mobility and visual impairments and to DOC’s visitation areas to bring these facilities into compliance with applicable accessibility standards.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “For too long, the City has been violating the ADA by depriving inmates with disabilities of their right to have equal access to services, programs, and activities available in the jail setting, and by failing to make its visitation areas fully accessible to individuals with disabilities. Through this agreement, the City has committed to providing needed accommodations to inmates with disabilities, as well as making visitation areas more accessible to members of the public with disabilities.”
As part of its investigation, the Office conducted on-site inspections of (a) the North Infirmary Command Annex, including the unit where DOC houses male inmates with significant mobility and visual impairments; (b) the area of Rose M. Singer Center where DOC houses female inmates with significant mobility and visual impairments and the common areas used by these inmates; and (c) the Central Visits Control Building and the visitation areas of each of the jails operated by DOC. The Office also reviewed DOC’s ADA policies and training, records relating to requests for accommodations submitted by or on behalf of inmates, and information concerning the availability of programs and services at City jails.
The Office identified widespread violations of applicable architectural accessibility standards for each of the facilities inspected. In addition, the Office found that DOC failed to consistently: (a) timely and adequately respond to accommodation requests from inmates with disabilities; (b) place inmates with mobility and visual impairments in accessible housing areas; (c) provide inmates with mobility impairments with access to appropriate mobility devices; and (d) ensure that hearing impaired inmates have equal access to telecommunications services.
The out-of-court settlement agreement requires the City, DOC, and HHC to:
· Complete hundreds of architectural modifications to the facilities that were inspected. The City will retain an independent architect to determine whether the required modifications have been performed and comply with applicable standards.
· Provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to inmates who are deaf, have hearing loss, have speech disabilities, are blind, or have low vision.
· Provide safe and appropriate assistive devices and medical equipment to meet the needs of inmates with disabilities.
· Promptly address complaints concerning the functioning or condition of any auxiliary aid, assistive device, or medical equipment.
· Provide inmates who are deaf, have hearing loss, or have speech disabilities with access to a TTY device, a hearing aid compatible telephone, the New York Relay Service, and, within three years, a Video Relay Service or an alternative way to communicate via a video link.
· Evaluate new inmates to determine whether they have any physical, mental, intellectual, or developmental disabilities and are in need of an accommodation.
· Place inmates with vision or mobility disabilities in accessible housing units where they will have access to all areas of the facility that inmates are permitted to use, including but not limited to common housing areas, recreational areas, worship areas, libraries, dining areas, visitation areas, medical treatment areas, mental health treatment areas, and areas where educational or vocational programs are offered.
· Promptly respond to requests by or on behalf of inmates to be transferred to more accessible housing.
· Adopt and implement a new policy governing how requests for accommodations and ADA complaints are submitted, processed, reviewed, resolved, and tracked.
· Maintain a computerized system to accurately track information concerning requests for accommodations and ADA complaints.
· Develop and provide new ADA training to DOC and HHC staff.
· Submit bi-annual compliance reports to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
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This case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey K. Powell and Lara Eshkenazi are in charge of the case.
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