We're Not Lovin' It!

Four touch screen devices with McDonald's logo that say, "Order Here"

We're Not Lovin' It!

The National Federation of the Blind helps me and other blind people live the life we want, and McDonald’s has been a tasty part of my life for decades. However, recent events may result in me having to change the jingle to “Ba Da Ba Ba Bah, I’m Not Lovin' It!” As part of a field trip during one of our STEM programs for blind youth, I took two blind students to the local McDonald’s. To my surprise, there were kiosks on the counter. At first, I was excited to be able to demonstrate accessible kiosk equipment to these budding young blind engineers, but I quickly realized that McDonald’s chose to use inaccessible technology. Other customers that arrived after us simply used the kiosk to place their orders and received their meals long before we were finally able to get a cashier to take our order. Needless to say, this meal was a little less tasty, and I must consider whether McDonald’s will be a part of my life in the coming decades.

CNBC reports that McDonald’s recently announced the opening of its flagship store in Manhattan. However, if you “Take a look inside McDonald’s new Times Square flagship,” you will realize that blind and low vision customers have been left behind. It is stated that, “The location showcases the modern updates that McDonald’s has been bringing to its U.S. stores. It boasts digital menu boards, eighteen self-order kiosks and wireless mobile charging stations at tables.” Unfortunately, McDonald’s missed a significant opportunity with the introduction of the new technology because none of the kiosks are accessible to the blind.

Technology exists today to make the information and point of sale kiosks accessible to the blind through the use of speech and Braille. This technology is not cost prohibitive, or difficult to implement. The resources used to design and develop this flagship location could have easily included the implementation of accessible kiosk technology. Moreover, the accessible technology would have made the software and related devices more usable and effective for use by seniors losing vision, individuals with learning disabilities, among others.

In the past, McDonald’s was an industry leader for promoting disability awareness and accessibility by adding Braille to their product packaging, and by featuring blind people in their advertising. Unfortunately, instead of moving forward as a leader, McDonald’s has chosen to get out of the race by discontinuing the use of Braille, and overlooking the implementation of the technology that would make the kiosks accessible to the blind.

As the National Federation of the Blind works with our partners to continue the development and implementation of accessible kiosk technology, we encourage McDonald’s to join us and reclaim their place as a leader in promoting awareness, accessibility, and inclusion of people with disabilities.

—Anil Lewis