McDonald's Faces Discrimination Class Action Lawsuit over New Soda Fountains

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New York, NY: McDonald's USA LLC is facing a potential nationwide discrimination class action lawsuit alleging violations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The plaintiff, David Dicarlo, alleges that he was unable to use the restaurant' new Coca-Cola Freestyle beverage dispensers because their touch-screen interfaces make no provision for use by the visually impaired. Dicarlo is legally blind.

"McDonald' sighted customers can independently browse, select and dispense soda at Freestyle without the assistance of others. However, blind people must rely on sighted companions or strangers to assist choosing, mixing and dispensing soda into their purchased cups,"the complaint states. "By failing to make its soda fountain accessible to blind persons, Freestyle is violating basic equal access requirements under both state and federal law."

According to the lawsuit, the new dispensers, which have been introduced at McDonald' locations nationwide, use an interactive display that enables users to select from more than 100 styles of Coca-Cola products. The display also enables sighted customers to create customized flavors by mixing the drinks. When the new machines are installed, the old fountains are removed, meaning blind people are not being provided an accessible way of obtaining a beverage without assistance, according to the complaint.

According to the lawsuit, blind people are also being excluded from an emerging experience because the high technology fountains also represent a new way of consuming beverages.

"The lack of accessible Freestyle machines means that blind people are excluded from the rapidly expanding self-service soda selecting and mixing experience, and from independently obtaining their own fountain drink,"the complaint states.

The complaint claims that the machines could easily be made more accessible by using common technology such as methods employed at ATMs such as tactile buttons and an audio interface.

The lawsuit alleges McDonald' is violating the civil rights of blind people by not providing them the same services offered to its other customers. The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction and damages under the ADA, as well as under state statutes.

The complaint is seeking certification for a class which would include any visually impaired person who ate at a McDonald' location where the new Freestyle dispenser was the only way of getting a drink. The plaintiffs estimate that there are 8.1 million visually impaired Americans and 14,000 McDonald' locations in the U.S.

The case is David Dicarlo v. McDonald' Corporation, case number 1:15-cv-02273, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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