In the past three weeks, almost one hundred lawsuits have been filed on behalf of blind and vision-impaired individuals claiming both restaurants and retailers are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and its state and local equivalents, for a failure to include braille on their gift cards. The complaints assert that for those patrons who are blind or vision-impaired, gift cards without braille are indistinguishable from other cards with the same shape, and therefore denies such individuals of the ability to distinguish between cards, ascertain the value of the card, or review other information contained on the card.
The lawsuits allege the violations stem from the public accommodation provisions of the ADA, that require businesses to provide aids and services where necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities. However, as the ADA does not specify which aids and services must be provided, and businesses are generally permitted to select the methods of accommodation they see best fit, it is unclear how these lawsuits will fare in court. As the future of this line of litigation is uncertain, businesses should take this as an opportunity to review their procedures for the issuance of gift cards and ADA compliance.
If you have any questions regarding the issues raised in this client alert, or how to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, please contact your Labor and Employment counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP.