Guess, Inc. was recently sued in a California class action lawsuit for allegedly using a point of sale (POS) system that is not fully accessible to and independently usable by blind and visually impaired persons. In a similar, subsequent suit, the National Federation of the Blind and several blind PetSmart customers recently filed a class action lawsuit in Colorado against PetSmart alleging it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar state laws by failing to offer physical keypads, as opposed to digital touchscreens, to allow blind customers to input PIN numbers when using debit cards. The plaintiff in the suit against Guess claimed that the retailer uses a flat screen POS device for debit or credit card transactions that does not distinguish numeric references. Thus, the plaintiff claims that blind or visually impaired consumers must disclose their personal identification number (i.e., PIN) in order to complete a transaction. The plaintiff further asserted that the retailer did not have auxiliary aids or services to make the POS devices fully accessible. The complaint states that Guess’ POS system violates Title III of the ADA, California Financial Code Sec. 13082, the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and the California Disabled Persons Act. In the complaint against PetSmart, the plaintiffs allege that PetSmart is knowingly denying blind individuals equal access to its goods and services by failing to offer a touch screen alternative at the point of sale, and allege that the touchscreens cannot be used by blind people or those with visual impairment because all information and prompts at the point of sale are communicated visually. Notably, plaintiffs allege this requires blind customers to verbally disclose their PIN numbers to sales associates in order to complete debit card purchases which compromises the privacy and security of those customers. This lawsuit is the most recent in a string of suits filed against retailers for ADA violations with respect to their POS devices. The PetSmart case is currently pending in U.S. District Court in Colorado.
TIP: Those companies subject to the ADA have an obligation to make their goods and services available to individuals with disabilities. Those obligations may extend to technology offerings in-store and, in some cases, in the online and mobile context. Companies should work with counsel to determine their obligations under the ADA.