Thursday, July 31, 2008

Yardsticks and More on Stores and Access

I went into Eddie Bauer recently and was able to navigate very easily. The dressing room was also the most accessible that I've ever been in. Though generally more pricey, the $8 jeans on sale for my getting-tall daughter couldn't be beat. I complimented one of the managers on how easy the store was to navigate. Though it isn't large, they didn't pack it with merchandise. The manager said every single morning she takes a tape measure and makes sure there is at least 36 inches of space between every rack, which ADA says is required for navigability. And said she'd pass that information on to some of the other clerks, who were always asking her why she was so exact about it. I did tell her I couldn't shop in a lot of stores. So praise where it's deserved is important--when places are accessible, plesae thank the owner or manager and let them know how it helps. Though not as frequent as we'd like it to be, there are people who think about us! Unfortunately, people with disabilities often don't venture into accessible stores, figuring that each is probably as inaccessible at the last.

ADA only applies the 36 inches to fixed racks, though, not moveable racks, and the law has been interpreted as all merchandise does not have to be accessible; a customer can ask the stores to pull merchandise of a certain type for them. That doesn't always work out so well, plus the clerk (or even your mom or husband) won't know your tastes. So Eddie Bauer (or at least this particular store) is exceeding ADA standards. Personally, I'd rather shop at stores where I can get around when I can. I'm one of those people who would rather have fewer clothing items (and those I really like) than a lot of merchandise from a store that claims to be accessible and is not (JCPenney), despite their buy 1 item, get 1 for $1 sale. Actually, I'd rather they be accessible, too.

Thanks to Yanub's links, I came across Patricia Bauer's posting about Mervyn's, which is being required to make all merchandise available to customers with disabilities. This case went through the California courts, so I am wondering how this will play out with other stores that exist in California, such as JCPenney and Kohl's. So it looks like ADA may begin to be interpreted more broadly? Great news!

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