A group of visually impaired men are suing a White Marsh paintball park, claiming their state and federal civil rights were violated after they were denied access to the facility based on their disability, according to a Baltimore law firm.
The Baltimore-based firm of Brown, Goldstein & Levy filed a federal lawsuit against Route 40 Paintball Park last week on behalf of Lansdowne-based Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) and three blind men who allege the facility violated the Maryland White Cane Law. The law requires free and equal access to facilities regardless of blindness.
According to a news release from the law firm, two BISM instructors and six students went to Route 40 Paintball Park, located on the 11000-block of Pulaski Highway, to play paintball on May 21 as part of a final class activity.
But, the release stated, employees at the park questioned whether the blind men could actually play and maneuver around the park and refused to let them participate.
Attorney Gregory Care said the group explained how they would safely participate in the paintball matches much like they had done at other facilities. Still, the group was denied access, Care said.
“This is a pretty straightforward case of a group of people being denied an opportunity simply because of their disability,” Care told Patch. "Unfortunately, this is a far too common occurrence for blind people, both in Maryland and nationwide.”
Care said the incident in May escalated to the point where his clients called Baltimore County police, who cited Route 40 Paintball Park with a misdemeanor Maryland White Cane Law violation.
Julian Maliszewski, son of Route 40 Paintball owner Tom Maliszewski, told Patch his family has no comment on the suit.
A Last Resort
Care said that filing suit was a measure of last resort for his clients, who only sought to play paintball and educate the park owners about the law.
“We reached out to the park owners on several occasions and couldn’t get anywhere with them.” Care said. “This case isn’t about money or damages, it’s about education and addressing misconceptions about blind people. Denying my clients access was discrimination, pure and simple.”
BISM instructor Marco Carranza, one of the blind customers, said this case isn’t one that had to go to court.
“It was very upsetting to be turned away and shocking that such discrimination still exists,” he said in a statement. “We know what we are capable of and being told ‘no’ threatens our independence.”
Another blind customer, James Konechne, said he had never had a problem trying to play at any other paintball park in the area.
“I have played at larger, more complicated parks and never had a problem,” he said in a statement. They just wouldn’t listen to us.”