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Self-service kiosks have become an integral part of our everyday lives. Automated touch-screen interfaces allow users to shop, bank and conduct a wide range of transactions independently without the need for assistance. Unfortunately, not all kiosks are accessible.

Last week the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (“LBVI”), along with five individuals who are blind, filed a class action lawsuit against Redbox claiming their self-service kiosks with touch-screen controls exclude people who are blind or visually impaired as the kiosks only offer visually based controls. Redbox DVD rentals account for approximately 34% of the DVD rental market nationwide, and according to Redbox almost 60 million videos are rented from its kiosks nationally each month. Redbox kiosks are located in thousands of businesses throughout California, including Save Mart stores who are also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The suit, brought on behalf of people who are blind and visually impaired throughout California, is the first of its kind in the country.

Plaintiff Joshua Saunder who is legally blind and enjoys movies with friends and family said, “I’m not asking for the world here but simply for the ability to rent DVDs from Redboxes just like everyone else can.”

Plaintiff Lisamaria Martinez, who is legally blind and likes sharing movies with her sighted husband and their 10-month-old-son, said trying to use a rental kiosk left her feeling embarrassed and helpless. “It’s a piece of entertainment that’s part of everybody’s life: to go and watch and rent movies at will. I just want to be able to be a part of that as well.”

According to Michael Nunez, an attorney with Disability Rights Advocates (which is representing LBVI), “This is a trend not unique to Redbox. Seeing kiosk technology propagated through airports, restaurants and shopping centers – it’s a big concern that these technologies have a design that doesn’t consider accessibility.”

“For the visually impaired, a touch-screen without any tactile or audio guides provides no helpful information. The kiosks could change their software to include screen-reading technology that could instruct users through audio,” Nunez said.

The technology exists to make self-service kiosks accessible to customers who are blind; for instance, adding screen-reading technology to instruct users with audio cues. Accessible ATMs and smartphones currently make use of tactile controls and/or screen reading software enabling people who are blind or visually impaired to use these devices. “A lack of accessibility in newly emerging forms of commerce is a symptom of the overall growing technological divide that blind people experience when companies fail to build in accessible features at the onset,” said Bryan Bashin, LightHouse Executive Director/CEO.

This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.