By Minh N. Vu
They are sprouting up everywhere: Kiosks that allow customers to buy tickets, rent DVDs, get boarding passes, check-in at a hotel, count change, and even rent cars without ever having to interact with a human being. These self-service kiosks can be a boon for customers and businesses, but they also create lawsuit exposure for businesses that fail to consider how they will be used by individuals who are blind or have limited mobility.
Redbox’s recent settlement of a class action lawsuit brought by advocates for the blind highlights this thorny issue and the uncertain legal landscape surrounding self-service equipment designed for customer use. Several blind individuals and an advocacy group sued Redbox because its DVD rental kiosks could not be independently used by non-sighted individuals. After two years of litigation and mediation, the parties entered into a class settlement under which Redbox agreed to take the following steps for all Redbox locations in California:
- incorporate audio guidance technology, a tactile keypad, and other accessibility features into its DVD rental kiosks so that blind customers can use them independently at one kiosk at every location within 18 months and at all California kiosks within 30 months;
- provide 24-hour telephone assistance at each kiosk;
- pay $1.2 M in damages to the class of aggrieved persons in California;
- pay Lighthouse for the Blind $85K to test kiosks;
- pay $10K to each named plaintiff in damages; and
- pay $800K in plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs.
Redbox also agreed to make certain accessibility improvements to its website but notably did not commit to meeting the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.