Title III Accessibility Class Actions Target Retail, Food and Hospitality Industries
Many retail, restaurant and hospitality employers are looking to technology to improve the guest experience and their bottom line. Among other things, these employers are installing self-serve touchscreen kiosks and touchscreen ordering and purchasing systems. As the e-menu trend, and touchscreens in general, find their way into stores and restaurants, entities must consider whether this new technology creates accessibility issues and legal exposure under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Title III of the ADA requires that places of public accommodation provide guests with disabilities equal opportunity to enjoy the goods and services offered.
In recent years, a wave of ADA Title III class actions have been filed against restaurants and retailers alleging that touchscreen technology creates an unlawful accessibility barrier for visually impaired customers. The types of lawsuits emerging in this area include class actions filed by advocacy groups for visually impaired individuals against owners of DVD rental kiosks alleging the kiosks are inaccessible to visually impaired individuals.
Touchscreen technology likely is here to stay. One answer to technology accessibility issues may be more or different technology. Considering the legal landscape, places of public accommodation currently using touchscreen technology or considering implementing this technology should proactively assess whether computerized self-service ordering and purchasing devices are accessible and can be used by all guests, regardless of their disability.