Photographer: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Supreme Court Rejects Blind Man's Bid for Vending-Machine Access

The U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal that sought to force Coca-Cola Co. and other companies to equip vending machines for use by blind people.

The justices left intact a ruling that said Emmett Magee, a legally blind Louisiana man, couldn’t sue Coca-Cola over glass-front vending machines he says are inaccessible for people who can’t see.

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act covers retail stores and other "places of public accommodation," requiring them to take steps to ensure that disabled people have access.

The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said vending machines don’t meet the definition of "public accommodation." The panel left open the possibility that Magee could sue the hospital and bus station that house the machines.

Magee contends that Coca-Cola has several options for making its machines accessible to blind people. Machines could include a smartphone application to relay price and product information or an audio interface along with a tactile keyboard, he said.

Coca-Cola urged the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal, saying Congress didn’t intend for the disabilities law to cover vending machines. The company also pointed to federal regulations that place visual accessibility requirements on ATMs and fare machines but not on vending machines.

Coca-Cola owns, operates or leases 3 million vending machines in the U.S., according to court papers.

The Trump administration had urged the justices to reject the appeal and said the appeals court reached the right conclusion.

The case is Magee v. Coca-Cola, 16-668.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
    LEARN MORE