A routine trip to Walmart turned into a nightmare for a Maryland woman, but now she is using her negative experience to help others.
Cynthia Morales and her boyfriend Linwood Boyd, who are both blind, were at the self-checkout lane at the Walmart in Owings Mills, Maryland in late July 2017 when they asked an employee for help. While the self-serve kiosks do issue some spoken prompts, it was still a challenge for Morales and Boyd to check out.
A Walmart employee helped the pair finish their transaction, but unbeknownst to Morales and Boyd, they requested $40 in cashback, which the employee pocketed. Because no audio prompt gave them a total of their transaction, the couple had no idea this happened until the machine told them to take the cash.
Unable to check their receipt, the couple asked someone outside of the store to read them it and discovered they had been charged the extra $40. The money was returned, but Morales and Boyd decided to shop at another nearby Walmart from then on.
Because of their experience at the Walmart, they are teaming up with Melissa Sheeder — another blind Marylander — the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the National Federation of the Blind Maryland to sue Walmart under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“What happened to Cindy Morales is an extreme example of what can occur when companies like Walmart deploy inaccessible self-checkout or point-of-sale technology,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “The real problem is that Walmart has decided to treat blind customers differently from sighted customers. Walmart’s refusal to deploy readily available technology to give blind shoppers the same choice sighted shoppers have — whether to check ourselves out or visit a cashier —makes us second-class customers. That is unlawful and unacceptable.”
The lawsuit is asking for the Maryland federal district court to order Walmart to make its self-service checkout kiosks fully accessible to blind shoppers. The NFB says they have offered to work with Walmart to make their kiosks accessible but they declined the offer.
Walmart officials released the following statement regarding the lawsuit:
We don’t tolerate discrimination and we believe our check out procedures comply with applicable law. When we learned of this specific situation with Ms. Morales, we looked into the matter and as a result, the associate is no longer with the company. We take this matter seriously and will respond as appropriate with the court.