Lawsuit Says LinkNYC Map Technology Leaves the Blind Behind

Posted in Discrimination at 4:09 pm by kevin

A few months after sidewalk LinkNYC kiosks were installed to provide wireless internet connection as well as other services, an organization advocating for the blind along with three people filed a case against the city of New York and CityBridge for alleged discrimination on blind people in relation to the kiosks.

The National Federation of the Blind based in Maryland and the blind New York residents were represented by their managing attorney, Michelle Caiola. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and claims were brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as state and city civil rights laws.

Primarily aimed to improve the lives of people with disabilities, the LinkNYC kiosks are allegedly futile for visually impaired individuals. According to the lawsuit filed, the tablets and the services that are also included lack features that make them usable or accessible to blind people.

What is the LinkNYC?

LinkNYC is a public-private partnership between the city and an association of technology companies. These kiosks have already taken the place of pay phones in the city and are strategically located in NYC to provide a super fast public WiFi as well as mobile device chargers and a tablet loaded with an app that will allow the public to make phone calls to any part of the United States.

However, these kiosks do not have an available Braille keyboard nor do they have audio instructions and software that will let visually impaired people to use them conveniently and without the help of sighted individuals. These overlooked features prompted the plaintiffs to file a lawsuit against the city of New York, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, including Commissioner Anne Roest and the three technology companies that are part of CityBridge, LLC who were the providers of the kiosks.

One of the plaintiffs, a blind instructor of technology courses in Manhattan, Mindy Jacobsen, said that when she tried to use a kiosk located on Eight Avenue to get directions, the audio was not working and what was available was only a touch screen map that she do not use for since she cannot see. Also, making a 911 call is also impossible for a visually impaired person since it can only be placed using the touch screen pad.


Months ago, LinkNYC was already underfire due to concerns that the advertisements of companies that are posted on the sides of the kiosks and give revenue to the city and CityBridge can compromise the privacy of the people. According to critics, using the services of LinkNYC put pertinent information of users at risk and will make it possible for these companies to send spam emails and content to unsuspecting individuals.

The spokesman from CityBridge said that the kiosks have features that are intended for blind individuals such as Braille labels which are placed beside the 911 button. These stations also have headphone jacks and that the design of the touch screen table is accessible by people on wheelchairs. As for audio cues and other features, the consortium is already working on these improvements.