New York's First Cannabis Retailer Sued over Website Accessibility

Lawsuit claims that Housing Works' website is inaccessible to blind people.

The nonprofit that launched recreational cannabis sales in New York City last month is now facing a legal fight over its website, in a suit filed by a blind woman, claiming it’s in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Housing Works, the nonprofit that became the first operational retailer in New York on Dec. 29, has a website that displays its product menu and other features, but according to the lawsuit, it’s not “fully accessible to” those who are visually impaired, Law360 reported. The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York.

Plaintiff Rasheta Bunting, who is legally blind, claimed in the suit that she attempted to purchase cannabis from Housing Works through its website, but was unable to do so because it doesn’t have features necessary for blind residents to navigate it.

The Housing Works website “contains thousands of access barriers that make it difficult if not impossible for blind and visually-impaired customers to use the website,” the lawsuit contends. “In fact, the access barriers make it impossible for blind and visually-impaired users to even complete a transaction on the website.”

Bunting’s suit states there’s “readily available accessible technology” that can be used by website designers so that site material can be read aloud by software that aids blind web users, to help them shop online and navigate the internet, but that Housing Works “has chosen to rely on an exclusively visual interface.”

And that, Bunting maintains, is a violation of the federal ADA.

Bunting is asking that a federal judge to issue a permanent injunction to force Housing Works to revamp its website, along with “compensatory damages,” and is seeking to make the lawsuit a class action.

A spokesperson for Housing Works did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

John Schroyer

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