The number of Americans living with disabilities is larger than many think: up to one in four American adults or 61 million people (about twice the population of Texas), according to the CDC. Additionally, studies have shown that 50 percent of people with disabilities are online daily, representing about 400 billion in purchasing power.

Over the past decade, the restaurant industry has embraced the importance of accessibility for websites and mobile apps to meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But as technology continues to evolve at lightning-fast speed, quick-service restaurants need to be just as rigorous for reviewing the accessibility of self-service technologies, from digital menus to payment systems.

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are no longer synonymous with the idea of self-service kiosk devices. Now, it’s commonplace to find service functions performed through self-serve kiosk solutions, especially in a quick-service environment.

Under Title III of the ADA, if a quick-service restaurant has public-facing technology, it must be accessible. Each quick-service website, mobile app, and self-service device needs careful attention to stay compliant.

Restaurant kiosks and POS systems must provide an inclusive experience

Legal cases involving inaccessible kiosks and employee assistance are on the rise, according to Minh Vu, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw who specializes in ADA Title III matters.

“I tell clients this,” Vu says. “Can you rely on your employees to properly provide assistance to customers at these kiosks? In the case of a lawsuit, is an employee going to remember an encounter that happened at that kiosk a year ago? That suit will be lost, if the plaintiff can say the response time was too slow, and you will have no evidence whatsoever.”

The legal and customer response comes back to ensuring quick-service restaurants have kiosks in place that can be used by people with disabilities, covering all hardware, software, and assistive technology considerations.

Take McDonald’s, for example, which installed the JAWS for Kiosk screen reader to corporate owned stores and franchise locations across the U.S. The effort required an understanding of McDonald’s robust self-order kiosk interface and a plan for making the extensive menu easily navigable and intuitive for customers that are blind or low vision.

JAWS for Kiosk allows blind and low vision users to interact with self-service kiosk by inserting headphones into the headphone jack, found on the navigation pad, which then navigates the kiosk screen, reading the content as they move through the application.

An accessible and well-designed kiosk can provide an efficient and independent experience for all users. As with all things related to accessibility, it is important to consider an accessible design from the very beginning. It is more cost effective to make a product, website, or app accessible for people with disabilities before it is developed or in use.

Matt Ater, vice president of industry-leading accessibility solutions provider Vispero, stresses the importance of user testing in addition to thorough technology audits.

“Kiosk design should be tested by people with various types of disabilities,” Ater says. “This may include testing at various stages during the design and development process. At a minimum, usability testing should be done once the design is complete. It will also be important to ensure that staff who may assist people using the kiosk understand what accessibility features are present and how to help someone use them. An accessibility feature is only as good as a person’s ability to use it and their knowledge that it exists in the first place.”

Free resources like the National Restaurant Association’s webinar on Accessible Payment Systems are abundant. And according to Ater, a key step is gauging the current state of a quick-service restaurant’s digital ADA compliance to make a plan forward.

Beyond the legal risk, Americans with disabilities make up a sizable demographic of existing and potential restaurant customers, representing billions in purchasing power. Not to mention that people with disabilities are incredibly loyal customers, according to Ater.

“As a person with a disability myself, being blind, I’ll tell you that if people with disabilities feel comfortable engaging with a business, they’re more likely to come back and be loyal.” Ater says.  “They often have so much trouble with the vast majority of [digital assets] that once they find one that actually accommodates their needs, they stick with it.”

If these segments of the population can’t use your website, app, or self-service device because of accessibility barriers, those customers will be lost to a competitor that has made their physical and virtual accommodations accessible.

Quick-service restaurants need a plan to deal with all aspects of the ADA. Evaluating compliance and usability of websites, apps, and all self-service devices, training employees on the law, and creating an ongoing, periodic auditing plan to make sure restaurants’ digital assets are within the law are helpful measures. The responsibility to be ADA complaint is ongoing.

Learn more about making your kiosk ADA compliant and usable by people with disabilities.


TPGi provides digital accessibility software and services to help businesses reduce risk, grow revenue, and improve user experience. We offer the most robust knowledge base and accessibility expertise in the industry because we have over 20 years of experience and 21 employees actively influencing accessibility standards in W3C. Our tailored full-spectrum approach has enabled 1000+ customers to achieve the best outcomes for their business, their employees, and their consumers. 

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