Redbox Discriminates Against the Blind by Failing to Provide Accessible Self-Service Kiosks

Oakland, CA – January 12, 2012 – Recent technological advances are sweeping the nation, changing the way people buy products and services. Self-service kiosks with automated, touch-screen interfaces now allow people to bank, shop, and conduct a wide range of transactions independently, without the assistance of a clerk. This technology is fast becoming an integral part of our every day lives.

Although these technologies can make our lives easier, Redbox, a video rental giant, has chosen to use self-service kiosks with touch-screen controls that exclude the blind from using its services. Blind Californians cannot use touch-screen kiosks that offer only visually-based controls. A class action lawsuit filed today in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California challenges Redbox’s inaccessible kiosks. The lawsuit is the first of its kind in the country.

The suit is brought by the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, as well as five blind individuals, on behalf of blind and visually impaired people throughout California. Plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”), a non-profit disability rights legal center headquartered in Berkeley, California that specializes in high-impact cases on behalf of people with disabilities. Plaintiffs are also represented by the Law Offices of Jay Koslofsky; Mr. Koslofsky is an experienced civil rights attorney.

Redbox has a major share of the video rental market. Redbox DVD rentals account for approximately 34% of the DVD rental market nationwide. According to Redbox, almost 60 million videos are rented from its kiosks nationally each month. Redbox kiosks can be found at thousands of businesses throughout California including Save Mart, which is a business that is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

For generations, blind and visually impaired people have watched and enjoyed movies as an ordinary part of daily life. Blind people with some remaining vision may watch films on their own or with sighted friends and family who can describe the details and actions of a film. In addition, many blind people enjoy watching dialogue driven films.

Plaintiff Lisamaria Martinez is a legally blind resident of Union City, California. ”I love watching movies with my husband and son and would like to independently rent movies for my family at Redboxes,” said Lisamaria Martinez.

Plaintiff Joshua Saunders is a legally blind resident of El Cerrito, California who enjoys watching movies with friends and family. “I’m not asking for the world here but simply for the ability to rent DVDs from Redboxes just like everyone else can,” said Joshua Saunders.

Redbox’s inaccessible touch-screen kiosks shut out a large and growing community of blind Californians. It is estimated that 100,000 Californians are legally blind and as the population continues to age, the number of adults with vision loss will increase.

The technology exists to make self-service kiosks accessible to the blind. Accessible ATMs and iPhones make use of tactile controls and/or screen reading software that enables blind people to use these devices.

“A lack of accessibility in newly emerging forms of commerce is a symptom of the overall growing technological divide that blind people experience when companies fail to build in accessible features at the onset,” said Bryan Bashin, Executive Director/CEO of the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

“Technology is a double edged sword. It has the power to enable millions, but it can disable many Americans far more than it enables them if accessibility is not built into technology at the beginning,” said Jay Koslofsky, Plaintiffs’ attorney of the Law Offices of Jay Koslofsky.

“Redbox is shutting out thousands of Californians from its services because it refuses to make its technology accessible to blind consumers,” said Michael Nunez, Plaintiffs’ attorney of Disability Rights Advocates.

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