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New suit says Apple Store POS devices discriminate against blind

updated 04:05 pm EST, Wed March 5, 2014

System prevents visually impaired from entering own PINs

A recent class action lawsuit -- filed last week in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida -- charges that the point-of-sale devices used by Apple Store workers discriminate against the visually impaired. Because shoppers can't enter a debit card PIN by themselves, plaintiff David New argues, Apple is in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Other retailers use POS devices with "tactiley discernible keypad surfaces," the complaint remarks, meaning that there's no fundamental reason why Apple Stores should be different.

"Plaintiff intends to continue to be a customer of Defendant's stores, and desires to make future payments by debit card. However, unless Defendant is required to install ADA compliant POS Devices, Plaintiff will continue to be unable to independently make payments for any purchases by debit card," the court filing reads.

"Defendant does not provide any auxiliary aids or services calculated to make its POS Devices fully accessible to, and independently usable by, blind people," it continues. "As a result of Defendant's non-compliance with the ADA, Plaintiff and the Class, unlike persons without visual impairments, cannot independently make a debit purchase at Defendant's stores."

Most Apple Store transactions are handled through specially-equipped iPod touches. Because of their touchscreen interface though, they aren't conducive to use by the blind.

by MacNN Staff




    Professional Poster

    Joined: 02-23-00

    "Most Apple Store transactions are handled through specially-equipped iPod touches"

    Most != all.

  1. bjojade

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-07-07

    Why not sue the credit card company instead, for giving the customer a payment system that requires visibility to use? This is a joke.

  1. lkrupp

    Junior Member

    Joined: 05-13-01

    So somebody is suing Apple to force them to put a keyboard on the iPhone, iPod, iPad?

  1. Paulrm

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-01-01

    Of course, braille iPads

  1. j Robert Hanson

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-14-13

    I'd love to know Tim Cook's feelings on this one.

  1. coffeetime

    Senior User

    Joined: 11-15-06

    I don't get it. If the blind can't see what's on iPod for entering PIN, then there's no way they can see what's on the computer screen, iPad screen and so forth. Unless they are reading from a 72pt size type on the screen?

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Actually, this is probably a very simple matter of modifying VoiceOver to work with the POS software (or make it work better). [remainder of post removed because it was inappropriate and the result of caffeine deprivation -- apologies]

  1. And.reg

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 02-22-04

    "Apple Store POS devices..."

    The acronym POS is really a bad choice...

  1. macvette

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-20-04

    I thought most debit cards could be used like a VISA card. No PIN needed.

    The employees at Apple Stores are some of the most polite and helpful staff I've encountered. I'm sure they would do whatever is needed to help out a blind customer. This lawyer must be a piece of work!

  1. And.reg

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 02-22-04

    Originally Posted by macvetteView Post

    I thought most debit cards could be used like a VISA card. No PIN needed.

    I've been using debit cards for a decade and I have never heard of a debit card PIN. Maybe the plaintiff meant the three-digit security code on the back.

    Either way, this lawsuit sounds fishy to me. Why is this lawsuit only now coming out? If Apple Store employees are personalizing one-on-one transactions with point-of-sale devices, then why doesn't the plaintiff allow the employee to communicate using words to complete the transaction? Most blind people learn how to make friends, so if anything, the plaintiff could have brought a friend/helper to finish the in-store transaction.

    And most blind people can still read print up close, so if anything, personalized one-on-one transactions in an Apple store should be less of a challenge in comparison to similar transactions in other stores.

    Also, only 10% of blind people ever actually learn Braille anyway:

    Fewer blind Americans learning Braille - US news - Life | NBC News

    Like I said, this lawsuit seems fishy.

  1. DiabloConQueso

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-11-08

    Your debit card PIN would be the 4-digit number you punch into the ATM machine when withdrawing cash.

    A lot of debit cards also double as credit cards (though linked to your checking account instead of a line of credit), and can be run as a credit transaction on the POS at the time of checkout. Unless you specifically request to the clerk that it be run as a debit transaction, they likely will run it as a credit transaction, which does not require input of a PIN to complete.

    If you request a debit transaction on the card, though, a lot of stores have keypads that they'll have you enter the PIN on as, naturally, the transaction is debiting your account right then and there, much like an ATM withdraws the funds when you take out cash right then and there.

    I'm not sure if we're talking about the same kinds of "debit" cards, but I'd be very, very wary of a debit card that did NOT have some kind of PIN code entry required with it in order to directly debit the funds from the account.

  1. And.reg

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 02-22-04

    Originally Posted by DiabloConQuesoView Post

    Your debit card PIN would be the 4-digit number you punch into the ATM machine when withdrawing cash.

    Yes there is a PIN for using ATMs. - I was thinking of something physical on the card.

  1. qazwart

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 04-10-01

    This should be fairly easy to fix. iPads can sync to a Bluetooth keyboard. All you need is one POS iPad synced to a numeric keypad. If a blind person comes in, they can use that iPad.

  1. boulder1259

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 05-01-02

    Leave it to chase_m to make this a political issue...

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    boulder: you're right, I was overly cranky there. Sorry gang, I will remove the second half of the comment.

  1. Mike Wuerthele

    Managing Editor

    Joined: 07-19-12

    Keep the language clean in the news, please.

  1. growlf

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-05-07

    This is, unfortunately, a political issue for certain populations of people. Government agencies, public institutions, etc. are being forced to divert resources from advancement projects in order to retrofit legacy applications and resources for those with disabilities. Lawsuits are increasing, and there is genuine fear amongst those involved in communications and development.

    Absolutely horrible to think about it this way, isn't it? Well, no, not really. I work at a public university and I believe that we should make every effort to help make materials and services available to those who have difficulty with access through traditional means - but not at the cost of moving forward. When we can't employ a certain technology in the classroom because it may be inaccessible to less than 1% of our student population, it puts us at a competitive disadvantage with other schools. It harms us, and it lessens the opportunities available to our students. It's no longer a matter of providing "equal" access through different means, we're now required to provide the "same" access by modifying tools that were never intended to support accessibility.

    People are not all the same, for better or worse. These accessibility lawsuits frequently do nothing more than squelch innovative technology programs and force us to spent large amounts of resources making a substandard user experience for EVERYONE.

  1. The Vicar

    Junior Member

    Joined: 07-01-09


    I call BS. The ADA — which is where the legal requirements come in — has almost entirely been rendered a dead letter by lack of enforcement, and court decisions have basically dismantled most of it. Lawsuits are, contrary to what you claim, falling off because the courts have made it clear they don't want to enforce that particular law.

    I'd almost be willing to bet money that the reason you don't cite any examples of "misguided accessibility" is because you don't actually have any, and you know that the things which are your pet peeves are actually totally reasonable, which will make you sound like a jerk if you mention them.

  1. Athens

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: 01-15-03

    This is why the disabled should be disposed of as a waste of resources :P

    NO seriously I think a blind person can expect needing some assistance. Because as it stands now they are trusting A the person handing them the machine is a actually employee and the machine they are punching the debit pin in is a actual store machine and the amount put in for the debit is the correct amount. And considering they are doing everything with touch its not like they are effectively hiding there pin anyways when they put it in. Even if they tried, because they cant see who's looking and how they are looking good luck in actually keeping it secret anyways. This is just a BS requirement.

    Rest of the world Debit cards are DEBIT cards with a PIN for use. Recently Canada has added Debit Visa to the mix which allows cards to act as a Debit card and VISA Card. In the USofA most Debit Cards are actually Debit/Visa Cards. What the rest of the world considers a Debit card is called a Check Card in the US aka Debit card with out the ability to do Credit on it which is rare.

    Additional to that what the world has been rolling out, and Canada is mostly rolled out and its starting to roll out in the US is Chip Visa cards. You need to enter a PIN for the Visa card like a debit card. Chip credit cards are mandatory in Canada with a full roll out by 2015. Its not in the US but liability changes in 2015 is making retailers switch to Chip enabled POS systems even in the US. Washington has many stores that rolled out Chip enabled POS terminals for debit/visa/check cards with Chips.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by And.regView Post

    I've been using debit cards for a decade and I have never heard of a debit card PIN. Maybe the plaintiff meant the three-digit security code on the back.

    Debit card with PIN has been the default non-cash payment option in the entirety of Europe for twenty years. Note that these are bank-issued cards. There is no security code on these, as the card number itself is worthless.

    We have VISA/Amex/MasterCard/etc debit cards as well, and those usually run via signature.

    Side note:
    Real "credit" cards, with multi-month payment schemes, are almost unheard of, at least here in Germany. Virtually everyone has a VISA/MasterCard/Amex, but they're all paid off in total monthly.

  1. Lifeisabeach

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 05-25-10

    I don't think Voiceover is an appropriate solution for entering a PIN number, unless you think it's really a secure thing for the customer to be announcing that PIN for all in the vicinity to hear.

    I don't understand what the fuss is. Instead of running it as a debit transaction, what's so wrong about running it as a credit transaction and signing for it? Unless their debit card can't be used as a credit card... do those still exist?

  1. panjandrum

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 12-01-04

    Several of my family members work specifically with the blind in the education environment. I have spent countless years on the fringes of the blind society. Anyone here who thinks this is a ridiculous lawsuit needs to spend a year to two with a blindfold on 24/7 so you can learn to empathize with other human beings. All Apple needs to do is equip each store with a single POS with a physical keyboard so that a blind person can enter their own pin.

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