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Blind Sue Airport Over Ticket Kiosks

LAS VEGAS (CN) - McCarran International Airport's self-service ticketing kiosks violate the civil rights of blind passengers, the National Federation of the Blind claims in a federal class action on behalf of its 50,000 members.

The airport, which is owned by Clark County, uses 180 kiosks "in its terminals and concourses as the primary means for airline passengers to gather information from and engage in transactions with air carriers at McCarran," the complaints states. The kiosks provide flight information, print tickets, allow passengers select seats, check bags and upgrade tickets.

"By deploying automated 'common use self-service' ticketing kiosks at McCarran International Airport that are inaccessible to blind customers," the airport and Clark County are "denying blind persons the use of the ... kiosks" offered to "non-disabled airline passengers," the complaint states.

Because the kiosks "make it possible for travelers to obtain information and process transactions without assistance from others," they provide "sighted air travelers numerous, unique benefits, including convenience, privacy and independence."

But the kiosks are "inaccessible to blind individuals because the machines use exclusively visual computer screen prompts and flat panel touch-screen navigation to guide a customer through a transaction without translating the prompts into a medium accessible to the blind, such as audio output or tactile raised buttons," according to the complaint.

There are companies that use such technologies to make the flat panel touch-screen kiosks accessible to the blind, but the federation says Clark County "has refused" to purchase them.

Plaintiffs Alan and Billie Ruth Schlank, a blind couple from Arlington, Va., travel to Las Vegas regularly to use their time-share, but "have been unable to use the ... kiosks independently because [they] require sight to operate," according to the complaint. "Mr. and Mrs. Schlank are faced with the dilemma of having to wait for an airline employee to assist them with the check-in process, or having to provide sensitive, private information to a sighted stranger who can access the ... kiosks for them."

Other named plaintiffs with similar complaints include Joyce Pratt of Gillette, N.J., who is blind and who flies regularly into McCarran Airport to visit her family; and Mark Ardeon, of Seattle, who is blind and "desires to fly into and out of McCarran while vacationing in Las Vegas."

The organization seeks corrective action and unspecified damages for the named plaintiffs, for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

Plaintiffs are represented by Eric Taylor with Alverson, Taylor, Mortensen & Sanders.

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