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Over the summer, a New Jersey woman, who happens to be deaf, filed a lawsuit against Taco Bell for discriminating against her at their drive-through window. The woman attempted to order by providing the employee at the drive-through window with a note that had her order on it, but she was refused service. On a previous occasion, she was allowed to order via note, but was told that the employee was making an exception just that one time.
When she was denied service, she entered the Taco Bell to find out what was going on and order food, but, as her court complaint alleges, not a single employee would even acknowledge her. She left without being served food and justifiably felt humiliated and frustrated.
ADA Policy on Drive-Through Restaurants
The Americans with Disabilities Act provides that businesses serving the public must make accommodations for individuals with disabilities. The ADA can even require businesses tear down physical barriers by widening doorways, lowering counters, and making tables, walkways and bathrooms wheelchair accessible. The U.S. Department of Justice provided this guidance as to how a prior ADA drive-through window complaint was handled:
An individual who is deaf alleged that a chain restaurant in Indiana refused to provide a picture menu at the drive-through window. The restaurant has agreed to modify its drive-through window policy to accept orders placed at the cashier window by customers who are deaf or hard of hearing; adopt an effective communications policy that includes providing pictorial menus to customers when requested; train staff on the policy; post signage in the employee drive-through workspace, the interior cash registers, the drive-through window, and the drive-through voice box regarding the policy; and compensate the complainant $250.
While typically, the ADA does not require a business to make physical changes to structures unless the business can actually afford to make those changes, a change to a policy as the DOJ example above is incredibly unlikely to not be considered affordable.
Although ADA access lawsuits are often the subject of negative media attention, it seems that the 26 year old law is still being disregarded by businesses who somehow get cast in the role of victim. Hopefully this deaf woman can make Taco Bell open up there eyes and ears to a problem with their drive-through ordering system.