Blind attorney Richard Bernstein has suggested to opposing lawyers in a lawsuit resulting from his being injured by a cyclist in New York’s Central Park that developmentally disabled people be used to help those with disabilities gain safe access to the park.“Would you be willing to work with the National Jewish Council for Disabilities to have developmental disabled people be crossing guards” into the park? Bernstein said he proposed to lawyers for the city.
Bernstein, of Birmingham, spent 10 weeks in Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York last summer and part of fall after he was struck Aug. 13 from behind by a cyclist while walking in the park. The collision shattered Bernstein’s pelvis.He said “no part of Central Park is safe” to enter on foot for people with disabilities because “bikes don’t stop for lights.” Motor vehicles, however, must obey traffic signals regulating pedestrian entry to the park.
“The National Jewish organization wants the chance to have its consumers have jobs,” Bernstein said. “I presented the proposal to New York officials that intellectually challenged people can do a wonderful job as guides into the park.“I hope (Mayor Michael) Bloomberg’s administration is willing to discuss this proposal.”
Jeffrey Lichtman, executive director of the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, said he would identify a number of development disabled adults who would be interesting in being crossing guards and cover the costs of their training.“It would be good for them to have a job and they’d likely love it,” he said.
City of New York Law Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Thomas responded late Monday to Bernstein's proposal by saying: "We received a communication and will respond appropriately."
Bernstein filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Detroit to have New York police require bicyclists to stop at traffic signals at all access points to the park. The suit seeks no monetary damages for Bernstein.In January, New York sought a change of venue to New York which Bernstein opposed. “They are seeking a change of venue to make this as difficult as possible for me to follow through on litigation.”
The lawsuit was being heard by federal judge Stephen J. Murphy III.If New York goes for “my proposal to use developmentally disabled people as crossing guards, it would show everyone that cognitively impaired people have great value,” Bernstein said. “If New York agrees, “I’d freeze the lawsuit.”
Jerry Wolffe is the Disability Rights Advocate at Large/Writer in Residence at Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586 263-8950.