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Blind woman sues Bklyn Brewery over ‘inaccessible’ website

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A blind woman hauled the owners of Brooklyn Brewery to civil court on federal discrimination charges for allegedly failing to provide a handicapped-accessible website, her lawyer said.

Queens resident Himelda Mendez got all hopped up after she visited brooklynbrewery.com earlier this month and found the website “inaccessible” because it was not designed to work with the screen-reading program she uses to browse the web — a discovery she claimed caused her “irreparable harm,” according to a complaint document her attorney filed in Manhattan Civil Court on Aug. 21.

“Our client is entitled to damages,” said Joseph Mizrahi. “We’re just here to vindicate her rights.”

Mendez’s screen-reading program, Job Access with Speech, describes websites to its users using text embedded in the sites’ photos and videos, and Brooklyn Brewery’s site lacks that text, according to the suit, which makes other allegations including that the site links to pages without any text — another illegal flaw in its design, the lawsuit claims.

The suit against the Williamsburg brewery is one of 25 that Mendez, who is legally blind, filed since June under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits businesses from discriminating against the physically and mentally disabled by failing to provide reasonable access to storefronts and websites, both of which are defined as public spaces under the law.

And the plaintiff didn’t attempt to notify bigwigs at the suds spot about her trouble using their website before taking them to court, Mizrahi said, because she didn’t have to.

“The short answer is, we did not attempt to do that, because that’s not what the law requires,” he said.

Critics of the federal legislation claim it too often opens up small businesses to such litigation, known as drive-by lawsuits. Last year, another Queens resident, the now-deceased Pedro Fontanes, sued roughly a dozen mom-and-pop shops in Park Slope over alleged accessibility issues despite claims he never attempted to actually patron the establishments.

And many proprietors choose to settle — even if the plaintiff’s lawyer takes home most of the funds — because the cost of going to trial can deal a death blow to their businesses, an attorney whose client was sued by Fontanes previously told this newspaper.

The legal assault on online storefronts is a growing source of liability for businesses, which last year were slapped with 355 accessibility suits over their websites in New York State, the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York reported in March.

Part of the problem is that most proprietors don’t realize they are liable for providing customers with the digital equivalent of a ramp, according to a spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind, who said his organization offers to work with business owners to make their websites compliant with the federal law.

“A lot of times a company doesn’t even realize it has an accessibility issue,” said Chris Danielsen. “It’s usually much more productive to try and engage in a conversati­on.”

And although it is necessary for the blind to have a legal recourse to ensure their civil rights — especially in a largely digitized society — it’s also important that businesses get a chance to clean up their online act before they’re dragged into court, Danielsen said.

“We don’t oppose people being aggressive with their rights, but we don’t feel its responsible to simply file a lawsuit,” he said. “We always encourage blind people to reach out to a business if they are having a difficulty accessing their goods and services.”

Neither a rep for Brooklyn Brewery, nor its founder Steve Hindy, could immediately be reached for comment on the suit.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 1:04 pm, August 27, 2018: An earlier version of this story has been updated to include more information on the claims in Mendez's suit.
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Reasonable discourse

Homey from Crooklyn says:
Irreparable harm my ass
Aug. 27, 6:27 am
John Harvey Kellogg from LIC says:
Total BS. What a way to try and make the news, Himelda Mendez. I am sure the lawyer put you up to this to help with your US Citizenship.
Aug. 27, 7:54 am
Why? from Brooklyn says:
Why does anyone want to do business here?

If it isn't the government coming up with tyrannical laws and preying on us with fines, the bottom feeders are enterprising on the governments "feel good" onerous law making with law suits.

When will the people get to decide what they want for themselves!
Aug. 27, 10:59 am
Jon Benguiat from Silver Lakes says:
Is there a device that allows a blind person to see or read a something on the Internet?
Aug. 27, 11:26 am
Tyler from pps says:
This is great... sue them so they have even *fewer* resources to improve their website accessibility.

I really hope this is just a scummy lawyer taking advantage of a frustrated person with disabilities. However, I have an inkling, the lack of ethics applies to both lawyer and client.
Aug. 27, 11:27 am
Gary from Fort Greene says:
Suing businesses for lack of disabled access has become a profitable business in itself, both for the plaintiff and especially for his or her lawyer. Check her lawyer's court records and chances are, you'll find many more lawsuits like this one. There were stories earlier this year about a wheelchair bound man suing some Brooklyn businesses, who had the bad judgment to be ambulatory when he answered the door to a reporter's knock. Oops.
Aug. 27, 2:26 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
This frivolous lawsuit is the perfect example of why trial lawyers are Democrats biggest donors. The party that claims to exist to help working people exists solely for the benefit of sleazebag ambulance chasers. #walkaway
Aug. 27, 2:51 pm
Leroy from First houses. says:
At some point "disabled" means just that.
Aug. 27, 4:30 pm
Jim from Cobble says:
25 lawsuits and no notice of intent to file... This seems like just some sue-happy cunnt looking for a payout.
Aug. 28, 10:27 am
JR from Williamsburg says:
Shakedown racket, just like all of these:

https://www.city-journal.org/html/ada-shakedown-racket-12494.html
Aug. 28, 2:55 pm
Michael says:
What if she suffers from attention deficit and the content isn't entertaining enough to keep her interested? She clearly should recieve millions of dollars in conpensation. Even worse - the tours of theri brewery are entirely visual and depend on you being able to see what they do! How can she ever enjoy that?! Do they hate all blind people, or just her specifically?
Aug. 29, 5:12 am
Go away from Brooklyn says:
LOL at the idiot and his #walkaway garbage.
Aug. 29, 5:05 pm
SY from Ocean Pkwy says:
Joseph Mizrahi.
Sept. 26, 12:31 am

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