A legally blind woman on Tuesday sued the first regulated cannabis dispensary in New York in federal court, saying its website violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because it is not accessible to the visually impaired and the blind.
In the complaint, Rasheta Bunting said she has attempted to purchase cannabis products from the website of Housing Works Cannabis LLC, which runs a shop on Broadway, but has been unable to because it lacks website features and compatibility with programs that allow the visually impaired to navigate websites and make purchases.
Bunting says in the complaint that she is legally blind and an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, and is a "tester" of whether facilities and websites are properly accessible to people with disabilities.
People with visual impairments use text readers, keyboard shortcuts and other tools that can read aloud descriptions from websites, and Housing Works' website is designed such that it is not compatible with these tools and common practices, according to the complaint.
Bunting also noted that the blind have even more need to be able to shop online, giving the difficulties of traveling to a physical location, and despite readily available accessibility technology, Housing Works' site relies exclusively on a visual interface that requires a mouse to navigate.
According to the complaint, graphics on the site lack alt text that screen-reading software uses to describe those images to the blind, links are not adequately labeled and drop-down menus are not designed to be accessible.
The site also lacks prompting information that lets blind shoppers locate and accurately fill out online forms, such as for credit card and other information, meaning visually impaired customers cannot make purchases without assistance.
When attempting to shop on the site, Bunting said she did not receive verbal notification when an item was added to her cart, could not close the shopping cart window, couldn't access the search option and did not receive error notifications that would let her correct mistakes in the form.
She also said she likes the wide selection of products offered on the site and intends in the future to try the products, if she could navigate the website.
In the complaint, Bunting aims to represent a class of legally blind persons in the U.S., and a subclass in New York, who attempted to use Housing Works' website but were denied access because its design does not account for the visually impaired.
The complaint alleges violations of the ADA as well as New York's Human Rights Law and Civil Rights Law, and seeks an order forcing Housing Works to make its website accessible, as well as compensatory damages.
Representatives for Bunting and Housing Works could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
Bunting is represented by Dan Shaked of Shaked Law Group PC.
Counsel information for Housing Works was not immediately available Tuesday.
The case is Bunting v. Housing Works Cannabis LLC, case number 1:23-cv-00286, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
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