The growing number of gift card lawsuits are similar to a website and app accessibility lawsuit Domino’s lost earlier this year.

By Mike Pomranz
November 20, 2019
Juanmonino/Getty Images

Of course, it's in a restaurant's best interest to accommodate all potential customers, including and especially those with accessibility issues. But a new series of lawsuits highlights yet another way many restaurants and other businesses are leaving the visually impaired behind: gift cards. Most gift cards don't include braille or even any distinguishing characteristics whatsoever.

That has lead to a growing number of restaurant chains having been sued in the past month for allegedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because they do not offer braille versions of their gift cards, according to Restaurant Business. The site references analysis earlier this month on the blog of the law firm Hunton Andrew Kurth. Their lawyers explain that since October 24, at least 116 of these lawsuits have been filed (across all retail companies, not just restaurants). Interestingly, the firm points out that, according to the suits, the only major chain that does offer these tactile gift cards is Starbucks, with Restaurant Business saying the chain rolled out braille gift cards in 2013.

The suits—which are all nearly identical—are apparently seeking "simple and inexpensive" changes to gift cards, including braille on the card stating the name and denomination and a size that's different from regular gift cards to make them easier to identify.

Sadly, Hunton Andrews Kurth also suggests that some lawyers may have other things on their mind than helping those with disabilities, writing, "Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY), has observed that these cases ‘are cut-and-paste lawsuits that are not about accessibility but about making money,'" alleging the lawyers out to grab damages for their clients and legal fees for themselves.

And yet, as we saw earlier this year, all it takes is one successful lawsuit to make a difference. In October, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling requiring Domino's to make its website and app accessible under the ADA, setting a precedent for other businesses. According to CNBC, that lawsuit was one of over 2,200 lawsuits filed over website accessibility in the U.S. last year alone—a stat that Hunton Andrews Kurth also cites.

So, yes, some unsavory lawyers could be attempting to take advantage of the laws, but that also doesn't mean that gift cards can't and shouldn't be improved. Either way, the issue is in the courts' hands, and if the Domino's lawsuit it any indication, it's an oversight that a majority of businesses may need correct in the very near future.

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