McCarran International Airport Discriminates Against Blind Passengers
National Federation of the Blind Files Suit Over Inaccessible Kiosks
Las Vegas, Nevada (March 30, 2011): The National Federation of the Blind and four blind individuals—Alan and Billie Ruth Schlank, Joyce Pratt, and Mark Adreon—who frequently fly or plan to fly to and from Las Vegas through McCarran International Airport, have filed a class-action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada against Clark County, Nevada; the Clark County Board of Commissioners; and the Clark County Department of Aviation, which administers McCarran International Airport. McCarran uses common-use self-service (CUSS) ticketing kiosks that employ a visual touchscreen interface without any auxiliary aids, such as a voice guidance program, and therefore cannot be used by blind passengers. Passengers who are able to use the kiosks can access information about flights, check in for flights, print tickets and boarding passes, select seats, upgrade to business or first-class cabins, check baggage, and perform other transactions relevant to their air travel plans. CUSS kiosks are unique because they are owned or controlled by the airport instead of by individual airlines and allow passengers to access most of the airlines operating at McCarran from any machine. The suit alleges that the defendants are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 because the benefits provided to travelers through these kiosks are not available to blind visitors to the airport. McCarran could easily add an audio interface, a tactile keypad, or interactive screen reader technology that works with touchscreens to its kiosks, or purchase kiosks with these features, but has neglected to do so. McCarran has also refused to respond to the plaintiffs’ offer to work collaboratively on implementing available technological solutions.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Blind passengers have always experienced discrimination in air travel, but the fact that airports like McCarran are now deploying inaccessible technology to perform routine travel functions is the greatest threat to the privacy and independence of blind air travelers that we have seen. Airports and airlines are engaging in this blatant discrimination even though the technology to make kiosks accessible is readily available, has been deployed by others, and involves little cost. Instead of enjoying the features and convenience of these kiosks, including a quicker and more convenient check-in process, blind passengers must either wait in long lines at the ticket counter or share personal information with strangers in order to use the kiosks. We will not tolerate a separate and unequal experience for blind travelers and demand that the defendants cease their discrimination against us as soon as practicable.”
Plaintiffs are represented in this matter by Daniel F. Goldstein, Gregory P. Care, and Timothy P. Elder of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein, and Levy; Laurence W. Paradis, Karla Gilbride, and Kevin Knestrick of the Berkeley firm Disability Rights Advocates; and Eric Taylor of the Las Vegas firm Alverson, Taylor, Mortenson & Sanders.