January 15, 2012

Redbox sued over access for visually impaired

Redbox comes under fire for non-compliance for visually impaired.

A San Francisco group that advocates for the visually impaired on Thursday sued a company that makes DVD-rental kiosks and the grocery store chain that hosts them, alleging that they discriminate against blind customers.

The group Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired said the touch-screens on Redbox rental kiosks, which can be found on the premises of many Bay Area Save Mart and Lucky stores, make it impossible or difficult for visually impaired customers to use the kiosks.

Lisamaria Martinez, a 30-year-old, legally blind Union City resident, enjoys sharing movies with her sighted husband, Joseph Bakker, and their 10-month-old-son, Erik. But she 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," said Martinez, a plaintiff in the suit who relies on Braille and a cane. "I just want to be able to be part of that as well."

The technological advances that have led to increased automation and touch-screens in kiosks like Redbox's have actually been more limiting for the visually impaired, said Michael Nunez, an attorney with Disability Rights Advocates, which is representing Lighthouse.

"This is a trend not unique to Redbox," Nunez said. "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.

Other DVD-rental companies such as Blockbuster have similar touch-screen kiosks in Bay Area supermarkets, but the advocates said they sued Illinois-based Redbox because it's a significant player in the market. They hope that a successful suit will encourage other kiosk-making companies to include accessible software on their products, Nunez said.

Save Mart spokeswoman Alicia Rockwell said the company had not yet been served with the suit and could not comment. A spokesman for Redbox declined to comment.

The suit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, asks the companies to make the kiosks accessible and pay undetermined damages to the plaintiffs, which include Martinez and four other Bay Area residents.

The Lighthouse has been involved in other accessibility negotiations, including efforts to install pedestrian audio signals at intersections in San Francisco.

E-mail Ellen Huet at [email protected]

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/01/12/BA0F1MOO29.DTL#ixzz1jY5rLnh0

Posted by staff at January 15, 2012 10:26 AM