Wal-Mart sued by disabled over payment machine access

Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:54pm EDT

Sam's Club CEO Rosalind Brewer speaks during the annual Wal-Mart shareholders' meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 1, 2012. REUTERS/Jacob Slaton

Sam's Club CEO Rosalind Brewer speaks during the annual Wal-Mart shareholders' meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 1, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jacob Slaton

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(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc has been sued by disability rights advocates who accused the world's largest retailer of failing to make payment machines accessible to disabled customers who use wheelchairs and scooters.

In what they called the first case of its kind, the plaintiffs accused Wal-Mart of discriminating against disabled customers by mounting "point-of-sale" terminals in many stores at elevated heights that cannot be reached.

They said this makes it difficult or impossible for the customers to pay for goods with credit or debit cards, and that Wal-Mart has refused to replace these older-model terminals despite using more accessible equipment in other stores.

The complaint filed on Wednesday with the federal court in San Francisco accuses Wal-Mart of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and California state laws protecting the disabled.

It seeks class-action status, and a permanent injunction requiring the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer to make point-of-sale terminals fully accessible to people in wheelchairs and scooters.

"Wal-Mart should be an industry leader, not a defender of discrimination," Bill Lann Lee, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

Ashley Hardie, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, in a statement said the retailer is committed to serving disabled people. "Our goal is that every POS machine be accessible within the regulations and guidelines of the ADA and California law," she added.

The lawsuit was filed by Center for Independent Living Inc, a group based in Berkeley, California; and California residents Janet Brown and Lisa Kilgore, who both use wheelchairs. Two other disability rights groups are also involved.

According to the complaint, some customers are forced to "stretch and strain upwards" to see Wal-Mart's view screens, while others risk identity theft by having to orally give their personal identification numbers to cashiers.

The complaint said neither Brown nor Kilgore can see the display screens at the Wal-Mart stores where they shop, and neither can privately enter her own confidential PIN number.

"I feel unsafe when I check out," Brown said in a statement.

The case is Center for Independent Living Inc et al v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 12-03885.

(Reporting By Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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Comments (2)
Mafettig wrote:
I read a previous article recently on how low-life attorneys seek disabled patrons to go out and find these infractions, paying them finder’s fees and such – makes a person wonder just how lucritive the business of fraudulant law practice can be

Jul 25, 2012 8:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
shayneedward wrote:
Just reading Atlas Shrugged. If you haven’t, try it. Difficult to read, but it is pretty applicable to modern thinking and the current social and political scene. This sounds like it could be in that book.

Making it known to Walmart that there is an issue you would like them to deal with is fine. Obviously their newer equipment is perfectly acceptable to the advocates in the article, which implies that they have recognized and are dealing with the issue by replacing old equipment with a better design. Great! Good for Walmart! Suing them because they haven’t done that yet in your branch is ludicrous. Who should eat the expense of replacing these older machines, so a fraction of the population is made happier? Should the government subsidize Walmart for replacing these machines? Trying to make life easier for the disabled is not only nice, it is the right thing to do on a moral level, and is good business for Walmart. They know this, and are doing it. Leave them alone to do their good thing rather than biting at their heels and yelling ‘faster, faster!’

Jul 25, 2012 9:00pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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