In 2015, Tina Thomas, who is blind, tried to book a trip with Greyhound’s website, but her text-to-speech software couldn’t interpret Greyhound’s site. When she called instead, she was charged a “convenience fee” for booking by phone — even though she explained she could not use the website. Earlier this year, she tried again, but the experience was no better.
Because of experiences like hers, Ms. Thomas, along with four other blind Californians working with the National Federation of the Blind, have now sued Greyhound in federal district court.
The lawsuit alleges that, despite existing guidelines like those from the Worldwide Web Consortium, Apple, and Google, Greyhound has nonetheless designed its website and mobile app so that they cannot be used by the blind. This, according to the lawsuit, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and state laws.
Blind people use screen reader software that converts the content of websites or apps into speech or Braille. This software can easily read text, but it cannot interpret pictures, graphics, and elements like forms and menus if they are not coded properly.
Other major transportation providers, such as airlines, train providers, and ride-sharing services, have websites or apps that blind people can use to book travel. But Greyhound has not made the needed changes to its website or app, despite several requests from blind people and advocates.
The lawsuit may be certified as a class action if the court approves. The suit seeks an injunction requiring Greyhound to make the needed changes to its website and mobile app. The case is National Federation of the Blind et al v. Greyhound Lines, Inc. et al, available as case number 3:17-cv-03368.
The plaintiffs are represented by Timothy Elder of the TRE Legal Practice, www.trelegal.com, and by Lisa Ells and Michael Nunez of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld, www.rbgg.com. Attorneys for the plaintiffs are interested in speaking with any blind individuals who have been unable to use the Greyhound mobile app or website with their screen-reader or who have been charged convenience fees for booking tickets over the telephone.
“Without the ability to drive, blind people need travel alternatives like Greyhound,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “It’s mystifying, not to mention unlawful, that Greyhound makes it impossible for us to book trips in the same ways everyone else can. Worse yet, Greyhound charges us extra for the convenience of using the only booking methods that work for us, the phone or the ticket counter at the bus station. Paying for Greyhound’s discrimination against us is offensive and this unequal treatment will not be left unchallenged.”
About the National Federation of the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. For more information, visit www.nfb.org.