[Nfbnet-members-list] Fwd: The National Federation of the Blind and Two Blind Individuals File Lawsuit Against SSA for Lack of Accessible Kiosks

David B Andrews dandrews at visi.com
Thu Aug 31 18:36:56 UTC 2017

-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: 	The National Federation of the Blind and Two Blind Individuals 
File Lawsuit Against SSA for Lack of Accessible Kiosks
Date: 	Mon, 28 Aug 2017 16:00:08 -0400
From: 	National Federation of the Blind <webmaster at nfb.org>
Reply-To: 	National Federation of the Blind <webmaster at nfb.org>
To: 	David Andrews <dandrews at visi.com>


Contact: Chris Danielson, cdanielsen at nfb.org 
<mailto:cdanielsen at nfb.org>, (410) 262-1281

Director of Public Relations, National Federation of the Blind

Gregg Kelley, gregg_kelley at washlaw.org 
<mailto:gregg_kelley at washlaw.org>, (202) 319-1000

Director of Development and Communications, Washington Lawyers’ 
Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs

Patricia McConahay, (Pat.McConahay at disabilityrightsca.org 
<mailto:.McConahay at disabilityrightsca.org>, (916) 504-5938

Communications Director, Disability Rights California

  The National Federation of the Blind and Two Blind Individuals File
  Lawsuit Against SSA for Lack of Accessible Kiosks

San Diego, California (August 28, 2017): Today, the National Federation 
of the Blind and two blind individuals who receive Social Security 
benefits filed a federal lawsuit against the Social Security 
Administration (SSA) for its failure to make its Visitor Intake 
Processing touchscreen kiosks accessible to its blind visitors. As a 
result, blind patrons are unable to check in independently at their 
local SSA field offices, and are forced to divulge private information, 
such as their social security numbers, to SSA staff or other sighted 
third parties to assist them. In addition, they cannot read the printed 
ticket generated by the kiosks, which contains their check-in number, so 
they must ask someone else to read the number or risk losing their 

    The Individual Plaintiffs

Lisa Marie Irving is a blind recipient of Social Security benefits and 
visited her local SSA office in La Mesa, California on May 4, 2017. In 
attempting to check in, Ms. Irving found that the Braille instructions 
were located on the side of the kiosk in an awkward position, making 
them impossible to read. She could not locate any keypad connected to 
the kiosk, and there were no audio instructions. Ms. Irving had 
encountered these same problems at least twice before on previous 
visits. “It was not only frustrating, but made me dread coming to the 
SSA office. I always felt rushed by the security guard and was never 
allowed to try and read the Braille instructions and check in 
independently. I had to rely on him to always check me in and had to 
provide my social security number in a crowded environment. It made me 
feel very insecure.”

Amy Bonano is also a blind recipient of SSA benefits. She last visited 
her local SSA field office in Dayton, Ohio in February of 2017 to report 
her wages and deliver her paystubs. The kiosk had no Braille or audio 
instructions, no headphone jack, and no keypad. Ms. Bonano had to ask 
the security guard to enter her information for her. Because she could 
not read the number on her printed ticket, she relied on the security 
guard to tell her what her number was so she could report to the service 
window. The security guard read the check-in number incorrectly, so Ms. 
Bonano was forced to ask other visitors to read her ticket for her. “I 
felt very uncomfortable giving out my private information to a stranger 
in a public place, and now I dread going back to my local SSA office. I 
don’t understand why an accessible kiosk has not been installed yet when 
the software for such touchscreen technology exists today. It exists in 
the common iPhone, which has a touchscreen. It can definitely be done here.”

    Further Background

Hundreds of thousands of blind US residents interact with the SSA each 
year. The SSA uses touchscreen kiosks at its field offices throughout 
the country. Touchscreen devices like those used by SSA can easily be 
made accessible; similar kiosks, as well as automated teller machines, 
are already accessible to the blind via audio output through a headphone 
jack and input with a tactile keypad. In addition, the iPhone and many 
other touchscreen smart phones are fully accessible to blind users. The 
lawsuit alleges that the use of these inaccessible kiosks violates 
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

    Approved Quotes for This Release

“It is critical that blind people are afforded not only equal access to 
government services and information, but equal respect for their privacy 
as well,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of 
the Blind. “Forcing blind Social Security beneficiaries to divulge their 
social security numbers, which are portals to other sensitive personal 
and financial information, in the crowded reception areas of SSA field 
offices is not acceptable, and the National Federation of the Blind will 
not tolerate such unlawful discrimination.”

“This issue highlights a systemic concern in the blind community 
regarding digital accessibility,” said Jonathan Smith, Executive 
Director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban 
Affairs. “Businesses, federal agencies, and medical facilities are 
increasingly switching to online mediums and kiosks to minimize staff. 
These spaces also need to be accessible, as they are treated by the 
public as places of public accommodation. Digital accessibility is not 
difficult to achieve, as many may assume.”

“The SSA needs to allow blind individuals the same privacy and 
independence afforded to anyone else visiting their offices,” said 
Autumn Elliott, a lawyer with Disability Rights California. “The SSA 
cannot allow check-in kiosks or other new technology to become barriers 
to access for people with disabilities.”

“In 2017, no federal agency, and certainly not one whose mission 
includes serving individuals with disabilities, should be using 
inaccessible technology in its offices,” said Jessie Weber, an attorney 
with Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP.  “Requiring blind individuals to 
obtain sighted assistance before they can meet with a Social Security 
representative is unacceptable and unlawful.”

    For Further Information

The case was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Federal District 
Court for the Southern District of California (Case No. 
3:17-cv-01730-BAS-KSC) by Brown Goldstein & Levy LLP of Baltimore, MD, 
the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, 
and Disability Rights California.


the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines 
you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, 
because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our 
dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you 

Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs was established in 1968 to 
provide pro bono legal services to address issues of discrimination and 
entrenched poverty. Since then, it has successfully handled thousands of 
civil rights cases on behalf of individuals and groups in the areas of 
fair housing, equal employment opportunity, public accommodations, 
immigrant rights, disability rights, public education, and prisoners’ 
rights. For more information, please visit www.washlaw.org 

ABOUT BROWN, GOLDSTEIN & LEVY LLP: Brown, Goldstein & Levy, based in 
Baltimore, Maryland, handles both civil and criminal litigation and has 
long represented organizations and individuals with disabilities in 
high-profile, high-impact disability rights cases. For more information, 
visit www.browngold.com 

ABOUT DISABILITY RIGHTS CALIFORNIA: Disability Rights California is a 
non-profit organization founded in 1978 to protect the rights of people 
with disabilities. Check out our website (www.disabilityrightsca.org 
Facebook and twitter @DisabilityCA.

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