High-Tech Fast Food Chain Sued Over Mobile Display Access


Technology is changing the way people dine out.  An automated, self-service restaurant chain called eatsa says it has no lines, no cashier, and was designed to get customers “in and out fast.” But plaintiffs in a New York federal court case say using eatsa may not be that easy.

The American Council of the Blind and a legally blind New York resident has sued eatsa for allegedly failing to make its mobile app, touchscreen tablets and in-store visual displays accessible to blind customers.

Eatsa customers place their orders on mobile phones or touchscreen tablets.  A customer can pick up his or her order from a cubby when it displays the customer’s name and order number on a screen.  According to the plaintiffs, the entire process is inaccessible to the blind because all required information is displayed visually and no audio features are available.

“Unlike sighted customers, blind customers would have to rely on someone to verbally list approximately seventy ingredients in order to access the full Eatsa menu,” the plaintiffs said in a complaint filed March 23 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The plaintiffs alleged eatsa violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying blind customers full and equal access to its restaurant services.  The plaintiffs said eatsa’s mobile apps and tablets could be made accessible to blind people, such as by adding voice over technology, but that the company hasn’t done that.

Eatsa co-founders Scott Drummond and Tim Young said in an e-mailed statement that they were surprised by the lawsuit. They said that every location is staffed with hosts who can provide assistance to visually-impaired customers, and that all of eatsa’s technology is compatible with the “appropriate assistance features.” 

Drummond and Young said they regretted the plaintiffs “did not spend time with eatsa's staff before taking legal action and hope to bring them satisfaction through a more detailed demonstration and understanding of our service.”