Blind Californians and Advocates Sue Greyhound
San Francisco (June 12, 2017): In February of 2015 Tina Thomas, who is blind, was planning a trip from her home in Los Angeles to Las Vegas to visit family and friends. She tried to book the trip on Greyhound.com, but her text-to-speech software couldn't interpret Greyhound's website. She called Greyhound to book her trip, explaining that she could not use the website, but Greyhound still charged her a "convenience fee" for booking by phone. She tried to use the website again earlier this year, but the experience had not improved.
Ms. Thomas and four other blind Californians, along with the National Federation of the Blind, have now sued Greyhound in federal district court. The lawsuit alleges that Greyhound has designed its website and app so that they cannot be used by the blind. This violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and state laws, the lawsuit says.
Blind people use screen reader software that converts the content of websites or apps into speech or Braille. This software can easily read text, but it cannot interpret pictures, graphics, and elements like forms and menus if they are not coded properly.
The Worldwide Web Consortium has published in-depth guidelines on how to make websites compatible with screen readers, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0, Level AA). Apple and Google have also published accessibility guidelines for apps designed for the iPhone and Android smart phones, respectively. Other major transportation providers, such as Southwest Airlines, Amtrak, and the ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft, have websites or apps that blind people can use to book travel. But Greyhound has not made the needed changes to its website or app, despite several requests from blind people and advocates.
The lawsuit may be certified as a class action if the court approves. The suit seeks an injunction requiring Greyhound to make the needed changes to its website and mobile app. The case is National Federation of the Blind et al v. Greyhound Lines, Inc. et al, case number 3:17-cv-03368. The plaintiffs are represented by Timothy Elder of the TRE Legal Practice, www.trelegal.com, and by Lisa Ells and Michael Nunez of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld, www.rbgg.com. Attorneys for the plaintiffs are interested in speaking with any blind individuals who have been unable to use the Greyhound mobile app or website with their screen-reader or who have been charged convenience fees for booking tickets over the telephone.
"Without the ability to drive, blind people need travel alternatives like Greyhound," said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the blind. "It's mystifying, not to mention unlawful, that Greyhound makes it impossible for us to book trips in the same ways everyone else can. Worse yet, Greyhound charges us extra for the convenience of using the only booking methods that work for us, the phone or the ticket counter at the bus station. Paying for Greyhound’s discrimination against us is offensive and this unequal treatment will not be left unchallenged. "