McDonald’s makes self-service easy for blind customers

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Mcdonalds Corp.

is modernizing some of its self-service kiosks to make them more accessible to blind people.

Company-owned McDonald’s restaurants are installing new keyboards and headphone jacks on the touchscreen kiosks they introduced in 2015 as an alternative to ordering at the counter. Blind users can connect their headphones to the system and navigate the digital menu using screen reader technology and tactile arrow buttons, adding items to their cart with the push of a central button.

McDonald’s said its existing self-serve kiosks were deployed in accordance with accessibility laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. The kiosks, which have enough free floor space for wheelchair users, include a screen magnifier and a “push for help” button that is labeled in Braille.

But members of the National Federation of the Blind, or NFB, reported that often no help came when they pressed the button, the organization’s general counsel Scott LaBarre, who is blind, said.

McDonald’s introduced kiosks to allow customers to place orders themselves, so forcing some users to wait for staff help was not fair service, LaBarre said.

“We really ran into the obstacle of not being able to use these machines, which made life much more convenient for others,” he said.

The NFB raised concerns with McDonald’s in 2019. The organizations collaborated to create and test the new system, which uses existing technology developed by TPGi, an accessibility software provider and consulting firm owned by Vispero. , and Storm Interface, which develops support hardware and operates under the name Keymat Technology Ltd.

The results of the collaboration come as an increasing number of accessibility lawsuits are filed. Between January and June of this year, just over 6,300 lawsuits were filed in federal court alleging violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public spaces and homes. commercial facilities, according to the Chicago-based agency. law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP. The company expects the number of such lawsuits to exceed 12,000 this year, which would be the highest number since it began tracking them in 2013.

A headphone jack now installed at select McDonald’s self-service kiosks allows blind users to plug into screen reader technology and order independently.


Photo:

National Federation of the Blind

Mr. LaBarre of the NFB said he was concerned about what he called “an uncontrollable litigation, where quite often the parties involved are not involved in systemic change or reform.”

“It’s a valuable tool, ADA, and when you need it you have to use it, and you have to use it with as much zeal and force as possible,” he said.

“But we are not rushing to court right away to take legal action,” he added. “We’re really trying to reach out first and say, ‘Hey, there’s a barrier, there’s a problem, and here are some ideas on a path you can take to resolve the problem. “

Adjustments to McDonald’s kiosks will come slowly.

The company said all of its company-owned restaurants in the United States will offer the additional support system by the end of this year. The technology will be added to all existing kiosks at company-owned restaurants in California and 25% of existing kiosks in other U.S. states.

But McDonald’s only operates about 5% of its approximately 14,000 US restaurants, the company said. The others are managed by franchisees.

The company said it will add the new accessibility feature to all new kiosks installed in any American restaurant after July 1, including those sold to franchised restaurants.

Write to Katie Deighton at [email protected]

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