Payments analysts and consumer advocates are urging the merchant community to conform with guidelines established by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The legislation, originally signed into law in 1990 and modified in 2009, established comprehensive guidelines for commercial structures and mass transit to enable people with disabilities to participate in a variety of public venues. These guidelines include specifications for countertop payment terminals and service lanes, payments analysts stated.
"Wal-Mart Stores Inc. just settled a four-year class action and is implementing ADA-compliant mounting solutions in 200 stores," said Steve Taylor, ADA consultant and Chief Executive Officer of Taylor Point of Sale Mounting Stand Solutions. "All merchants must comply with ADA guidelines to avoid lawsuits and fines; the minimum fine is $4,000, whether you process $1,000 or $1 million a month."
The lawsuit, Center for Independent Living Inc. et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., was tried in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Plaintiffs alleged that disabled consumers were unable to reach consumer-facing POS devices because they were mounted too high. This forced some consumers to share personal information, such as PIN codes, with cashiers to complete transactions, the plaintiffs stated.
Taylor stated that he created a patented ADA-compliant stand that makes customer-facing PIN pads accessible to wheelchair-bound consumers. Users can pull on a blue lever to release the tethered PIN pad from its mounted stand and complete their transactions without assistance. The industrial-strength wire tether keeps the device safely connected to the stand and countertop, enabling it to transition from fixed to handheld configurations, he said.
Taylor noted that several device manufacturers are using the ADA-compliant stand in large-scale, customized deployments with major retailers. He is also working with the Electronic Transactions Association on a webinar designed to educate members on ADA guidelines.
Taylor is also forming a working group to raise awareness of ADA compliance and address numerous issues related to implementation. Total System Services Inc. and Mastercard have already joined, he added.
ADA guidelines state that merchants must have enough clearance for wheelchairs to freely move through lanes and aisles. The space adjacent to a countertop must be at least 30 inches long by 48 inches wide and "connected to the accessible route which connects to the accessible entrance and other areas in the business where merchandise or services are provided," ADA stated.
Grocery store checkout lanes must provide 36-inch-wide access aisles designated with the international symbol of accessibility mounted over the aisle. Store owners must provide a certain number of accessible lanes based on their total number of lanes. "For example, if one to four aisles are provided, then at least one should be accessible," the ADA wrote. "If more than five to eight aisles are provided, then two accessible aisles are needed."
Additionally, every type of checkout, including express lanes and customer service counters, must provide access to disabled consumers. Certain grandfathered clauses enable buildings and stores constructed before Jan. 26, 1992, to make modifications to existing infrastructure. Stricter guidelines apply to newer facilities. Specific guidelines on design and renovation can be found in The ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
The U.S. Department of Justice is actively enforcing ADA guidelines, Taylor stated. In addition, numerous state ordinances dictate accessibility codes, which are further enforced by local building inspectors. Merchants must comply with local, state and federal requirements, he added.
Noting that "drive-by" attorneys are exposing noncompliant businesses for the attorneys' own personal gain, Taylor said. "The payments and kiosk industries are working on a series of initiatives to eliminate the massive amounts of ADA lawsuits at checkout," Taylor said.
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