Recently, there has been a surge of class action lawsuits brought against businesses claiming discrimination against the visually impaired and blind for failure to provide gift cards with Braille information on them. Specifically, it has been reported that since October 24, 2019, over 100 putative class action lawsuits have been filed against businesses for violations of ADA Title III, as well as the New York State and City Human Rights Laws in the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. The complaints are nearly identical and assert the same theory: a business that provides a gift card for purchase, but does not offer a Braille version, is discriminating against individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
There are 11 plaintiffs and 4 law firms that have filed the Braille cases. Coincidentally, these are the same litigants and law firms (which have been termed “serial plaintiffs”) who filed lawsuits against businesses for allegedly inaccessible websites for the blind over the past few years. Those complaints typically deal with the roadblocks that visually impaired individuals face when using “screen reader” tools that read the contents of a website aloud.
The new Braille cases are just the beginning of a new wave of serial lawsuits and it remains to be seen whether the claims will grow as the website accessibility cases have. In light of the recent lawsuits, businesses should be mindful of whether their gift cards can pose a problem for the blind or visually impaired. We will continue to monitor this development closely.