If you think you have no reason to be concerned about getting sued over the Americans with Disabilities Act, think again, especially if your company uses any self-service, application, or vending kiosks.
Because kiosks are electronic devices, and part of cyberspace, the ADA has said such kiosks are “fair game” for ADA liability coverage, according to Carolyn Burnette, partner in the law firm Shaw Valenza in California.
Rules apply to such kiosks, and all employers must provide “reasonable access,” explains Burnette.
Burnette cited the example of how the National Federation of the Blind brought a class-action suit against a major retailer due to its inaccessibility issues. Burnette says to avoid a similar headache for your organization, companies should revise systems to include a Braille reader, audio prompts, and other links for disabled-access capabilities.
Burnette says immediate steps you can take include:
- Schedule periodic self-audits.
- Talk to vendors, have them look at equipment, and determine whether it meets current standards for disabled access.
- Visit the location and check physical access; be sure to keep all paths clear.
- Track the law, as it’s extremely important to stay ahead of ever-changing compliance criteria.
Just last month, for example, Amtrak announced its second generation of self-service ticketing, fully compliant with all ADA guidelines. Beyond Braille and specially adapted headsets, other changes include new ticketing kiosks, security camera, barcode and credit-card readers, dual printers, and an encrypted PIN pad.
New York-based Redy-Ref, a kiosk manufacturer, recently unveiled the fully ADA-compliant TK-5000. The company says its use is primarily for human resources functions, complete with a barcode scanner, vandal-resistant keyboard, and a 15″ LCD monitor.
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According to Francie Mendelsohn, president of Summit Research Associates, the University of Wisconsin’s Trace Research and Development Center is a pioneer of cross-disability access. The system “pioneered” EZ Access, a simple set of buttons that allows universal access to technology. Mendelsohn also recommends the World Wide Web Consortium and CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology).
Finally, the Job Accommodation Network recommends the following ideas for employers to consider when purchasing equipment for the workplace:
- Evaluate whether the equipment can be maintained easily.
- Evaluate whether the equipment can be upgraded easily.
- Determine whether the system can be used by a majority of the workforce.
- Include the disability program manager, as well as representatives from information technology, purchasing, management, and safety departments when considering purchases that affect many employees. In the example of a Web conferencing system for training activities, consider options that make materials accessible to screen readers and captioning services.
JAN, a division of the Department of Labor, also publishes a booklet on the ADA and your responsibilities as an employer.
Note: This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation. Carolyn Burnette, an employment lawyer at the firm Shaw Valenza, spoke about these and other employment law issues during a recent conference call. Subscribers to the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership can contact Todd Raphael about getting a tape.