Retail Chains Agree To Accessibility Changes
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 10, 2005
WASHINGTON, DC--The retail chains Hecht's and Lord & Taylor agreed Tuesday to make immediate changes to 15 of their stores in order to settle a suit filed by customers with disabilities.
Eight shoppers sued May Department Stores Co., the parent company of Hecht's and Lord & Taylor in 2001 claiming the stores violated their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Among other things, those customers claimed that aisles in the stores were blocked by boxes and sales racks, that the bathroom and dressing room stalls were too narrow for wheelchairs, and that the displays were designed without any consideration for shoppers with wheelchairs and other mobility devices. One wheelchair user even got tangled up in display racks which she said then fell and injured her.
The Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington became involved in the case after receiving a high volume of complaints, the Washington Post reported.
Under the agreement, the stores in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia will widen their pathways to at least 32 inches, remove barriers to restrooms and fitting rooms, redesign racks and tables so that between 75 and 85 percent of the merchandise can be reached more easily, and lower 20 percent of the cash registers to be accessible for wheelchair users.
"The changes will be very noticeable, even to those of us who are not looking for them," said Elaine Gardner, an attorney with the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, who worked on the case.
Gardner added that representatives from both May and the Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington would spot-check the stores' progress in meeting the settlement's requirements every year.
Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs