What Made News?

Major retailers from Apple to Lucky Brand to J. Crew are being sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide point of sale (POS) devices that are accessible to the blind.

Background on the Cases

Plaintiffs’ attorneys are filing lawsuits against retailers for failing to provide POS payment card machines that the blind can use. The suits target retailers that provide POS devices that have flat touch screen surfaces and no separate keypad with which to input information. Specifically, the suits claim that retailers who provide touch screen POS devices with no auxiliary aids or services for the blind violate the ADA because these devices do not have features discernible to the blind. Thus, blind customers who wish to make debit card purchases are unable to enter their PIN numbers and are forced to disclose these numbers to store clerks, violating their privacy and exposing them to the risk of fraud. The plaintiffs also note that POS devices with textured keypads tactilely discernible to the blind are readily available and used by a substantial portion of retailers. Thus, the plaintiffs do not view it as a substantial hardship for the retailers at issue here to comply with the ADA and allow blind customers to privately and independently complete debit transactions by adopting POS devices with tactile keypads.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) agrees with the plaintiffs. Notably, the DOJ has filed a statement of interest in the case against Lucky Brand, arguing it is not enough that the blind have other methods of payment available to them — like cash, for instance. The DOJ also argues that companies are not relieved of their duty to provide accessible POS devices simply because there are no formal standards or regulations that specify the requirements for POS devices.

What is the Takeaway?

All retailers with brick-and-mortar locations should take note of this recent rash of lawsuits. To mitigate the risk of a lawsuit over ADA compliance, retailers would be wise to ensure that their POS devices are accessible to the blind. In addition, before retailers adopt new customer-facing technologies, they should evaluate how these technologies will affect customers with disabilities.