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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Attorney in Wheelchair Sues NYC For $1M Over Courthouse Accessibility

Attorney Caner Demiriyak
Oct. 16, 2017 - A wheelchair-bound lawyer has filed a $1 million suit against the city, claiming they’ve failed miserably in making a Brooklyn courthouse accessible to him and others with limited mobility.

article by By Reuven Fenton, Larry Celona and Emily Saul for the New York Post                     
“You can’t get around,” said the 29-year-old, who’s been using his wheelchair for 11 years.Personal injury lawyer Caner Demirayak, who​ has Muscular ​d​ystrophy, told The Post he has trouble mane​u​vering ​around ​Brooklyn Civil Court​ ​–​ ​where he spends most of his work days.

“You try to conference a case with the judge, you can’t get up to the conference room. The judge says, ‘It’s OK, you don’t have to come up,’ or, ‘You’re not included.’”

Demirayak, 29, said his anger started boiling over ​in August, when he wanted to ​sit in on a trial at the courthouse, located in downtown Brooklyn at​ 360 Adams St.

Yet he wasn’t able to make it into the courtroom. The Long Island man said court officers essentially told him “tough luck,” and walked away.

“Ironically, several weeks later I got a case in front of a judge in that courtroom,” he said, and the court staff were forced to shuffle to accommodate him.

Demirayak said he and his chair can only maneuver within two courtrooms in the entire building.

“There’s no space,” he said of the courtrooms. “They have to move tables and furniture out of your way. If you have a wheelchair bigger than mine — I have the smallest one, 24 inches -​-​ you would never, ever fit in.

​”​You go to the table where you want to have a trial, you can’t even go near it because there’s no legroom underneath. They have the barriers under the old-school tables that aren’t supposed to
be there. You try to wiggle around the courtroom, trying to point at pictures, trying to talk to the jury and it’s so limited. It looks ridiculous.”

​Adding insult to injury, not a single stall in the entire building will fit his wheelchair​ ​–​ ​meaning he has to choose between ignoring the call of nature for the whole day, or having zero privacy.

“They have signs all over the court saying, ‘This bathroom is accessible.’ You go inside, it’s not accessible. They tell you you can go to the second floor, you can go to the third floor. And I’m trying to pick a jury and I don’t have time to kill. But I’ll go to those floors anyway and it’s either not an accessible bathroom or it’s out of order. So I’m in court all day and I can’t use the bathroom.”

“It’s humiliating and frustrating, and a little embarrassing,” Demirayak said of the entire ordeal. “People are only disabled to the extent that the world around them doesn’t allow them them to do things. If everything is accessible, you’re not really disabled.”

Since he filed​ suit, the lawyer says he’s learned an advisory committee ​has been impaneled on ​disability ​access.

“The city is committed to ensuring we all have equal access to public spaces,” a ​city ​Law Department spokesman said. “We will review the complaint and respond accordingly.”

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