The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to prohibit discrimination against the disabled in a number of areas, including commerce. Many small businesses regularly run into difficulty with ADA compliance and find lawsuits over compliance both common and cumbersome.
However, small businesses aren't the only ones that can run afoul of the ADA. Large companies can also overlook some big issues.
The latest example comes in the form of a lawsuit against Walmart over its self-serve kiosks. The National Federation of the Blind and three Maryland residents have filed a lawsuit in federal court after attempts to negotiate directly with the retail giant went nowhere.
The lawsuit alleges that there is sufficient technology available to make the checkout kiosks usable by the blind without assistance -- and that Walmart simply won't incorporate it.
The lack of adaptive technology leaves blind customers subject to financial exploitation and abuse if they try to use the self-serve kiosks because they're dependent on assistance from others to complete their transactions. That's precisely what happened to one of the blind individuals bringing the lawsuit.
The only other option for blind customers might be to wait in a long line or go to a service counter. Given that some Walmarts are experimenting with cashier-free checkouts, the inconvenience could be considerable.
Under the ADA, businesses are generally only required to make accommodations for the disabled that are considered "reasonable." Exactly what is and is not "reasonable" is often what ends up taking the opposing parties to litigation, however. For example, Walmart may consider the expense of adding adaptive technology that will allow the blind to operate the self-service kiosks in all of its stores without assistance to be cost-prohibitive.
ADA compliance issues are a common reason source of legal trouble for businesses. If you're uncertain what your obligations are under the ADA, a business law attorney can advise you and help you understand your choices.