The Checkout

An Unreasonable Request?

A reader named Grace called in this week to raise this question: How far should businesses go to be accessible to consumers with disabilities?

It all started when Grace spied an ad for C-Mart, a new discount retailer opening in Landover, Md., this weekend. The store plans to offer boutique designer clothes and furniture at big box prices. In the spirit of the latter, it is a roomy 65,000 square feet.

That poses a problem for shoppers such as Grace, who on top of a burning desire to buy a Ferragamo bag for 80 percent off retail has multiple sclerosis.

She's had run-ins with store managers and security guards over accessibility issues in the past. A guard at a CVS once called the police on her once when she demanded a chair. Fortunately for Grace, the police didn't cart her away but instead told the guard he needed to get her a seat.

So seeing the square footage at C-Mart, Grace called ahead to inquire about whether the store was going to offer motorized chairs with a basket attached--the kind you see at most major supermarkets and at places like Target. But C-Mart told her--and me as well--that it had managed to round up only one manual wheelchair for this weekend.

Grace is thoroughly convinced that C-Mart is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires businesses make "reasonable accommodations" for people with disabilities. She further contends that if C-Mart is going to provide a manual chair, the store is also legally required to have someone available to wheel her through the store--a courtesy she was used to when she shopped at Hecht's.

It turns out, though, that legally C-Mart is in the right.

While "reasonable accommodation" has come to mean things such as spaces for wheelchairs in movie theaters with stadium-seating and handicap-accessible bathroom stalls, it doesn't require businesses of a certain size to offer motorized chairs or to have employees on call to navigate manual ones.

"Reasonable accomodation" is more of "gray area" that doesn't offer consumers or businesses clear guidance in every situation, said Russ Holt, founder of Access Information Inc. and publisher of an online accessibility guide to the Washington area.

Holt, a quadriplegic himself, says he's got no problem with C-Mart's policy.

"You can't get angry at a store. Next thing someone will say is everything is not at eye level. Manual chairs are a good start. You can't ask for everything," he said.

Generally speaking, he explained further, if you truly need a motorized chair, you should probably have one all the time and not have to rely on stores to provide them.

If Grace still insists on lobbying for motorized chairs, Marcie Roth, executive director of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association in Rockville suggests treating the issue as a simple business proposition rather than focusing on legal requirements. What store, Roth says, wouldn't want to let in as many people as possible to spend money there?

You would think, right?

Have you ever had problems getting into and around a business?

By Annys Shin |  February 14, 2007; 8:15 AM ET Customer Service
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Comments

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Fortunately, I'm healthy so this could be skewing my POV. As Mr. Hold said "Generally speaking, he explained further, if you truly need a motorized chair, you should probably have one all the time and not have to rely on stores to provide them." The stores should (and C-Mart does) have wider aisles and ramps and other things that allow those with motorized chairs to go in and out of the store. However, they should NOT be required to provide them.

Those who need assistance should have some personal responsiblity to do what they can (get a motorized chair) but the law helps them when things are out of their control (like aisle sizes and ramps).

Posted by: Non debtor | February 14, 2007 8:45 AM

Oops, that's Mr. Holt - not Mr. Hold.

Posted by: Non debtor | February 14, 2007 8:45 AM

I agree with Mr Holt & Non debtor:

People need to take more responsibility for themselves. The U.S. Constitution says we have the Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Grace obviously is alive, she has the Liberty to shop wherever she wants, and can Pursue Happiness wherever she wants.

The government has no requirement to provide Grace with happiness. That is her job.

I do have a comment on the width of isles in some stores tho. THe local big box (WalMart) is famous for stacks of items blocking the isles. Many isles you can't guide the WalMart shopping cart through. It basically looks like a dump.

I haven't gone in the WalMart for the last two years, and that time I was desperate to find something I needed - last minute shopping makes you crazy.

Posted by: SoMD | February 14, 2007 9:10 AM

Actually, I can see Grace's point of view.

I have a broken leg right now and am using crutches to get around. I can walk short distances with the crutches, but long distances are too tiring for me. I think this is probably the same situation that Grace is facing; the only difference is that her problem is permanent.

I have a wheelchair; Grace probably does, too. But I can't get it in and out of the car by myself, and I don't think she can, either. This means that neither Grace nor I can shop at C-Mart unless we either 1) travel with a companion, or 2) use an in-store ride provided by C-Mart. Having to bring a second person with me to go shopping is so inconvenient that I rarely do it. I suspect Grace feels the same way.

If C-Mart wants my business, they had better buy some wheelchairs or scooters or something of the sort. And since Grace seems to have difficulty propelling a manual wheelchair for long distances (a problem that I don't have), C-Mart will need to provide either a motorized ride or a pusher if they want her business. Otherwise, we're both going to spend our money elsewhere.

C-Mart may be in the right legally, but their conduct is offensive. For a store of that size, the price of a few scooters is trivial, especially in comparison to the bad publicity that can result from being inhospitable to disabled customers.

Posted by: Lee | February 14, 2007 9:11 AM

"If C-Mart wants my business"...

This sums it up, Lee. Clearly, catering to cripples is a net-lose situation, financial-wise. They will never make back in profit what it costs to buy those motorized things.

Frankly, I don't see much wrong with that. They're a business, and have the right to make that decision. As someone else said, if Grace wants one, she can go buy one.

Posted by: JD | February 14, 2007 9:23 AM

My wife uses a motorized wheelchair to get around, although she can walk a bit before she gets too tired to continue. When we go shopping, she either brings her own chair or we select a store that has them available.

A store that does not have a chair available may not get our business. That is the end of the issue.

Grace wants to buy a bag at C-Mart for 80% off. How does C-Mart sell for 80% off? By cutting costs. If Grace will limit her shopping to full price and full service stores, then the problem is solved.

Posted by: Matt M | February 14, 2007 9:28 AM

I feel badly for the woman Annys profiles, but if she needs a scooter to get around a big-box store, it's probably time for her to consider integrating one into her life more generally. Yes, I know what a huge hassle this is, up to and including having to buy a new car or find a new place to live. But this can't be the only store in the world she needs a bit of help to get around. And what would she do if she showed up and the store's chairs were all in use?

Access is an ongoing problem for my elderly parents (dad's in a wheelchair, mom's on a walker). Thank goodness they don't live in New York City, where the supermarket aisles are often too narrow to maneuver a power chair. While most big-box stores have ramps and wide aisles, department stores are notorious for not leaving enough space between clothing racks for my mom to maneuver. The main aisles are fine, but how do you get to the pretty sweater on the back wall when not even a 3-year-old could squeeze through the racks without knocking things off? Find a clerk - ha! Solution: catalog shopping (and at holidays it's made gift-giving a breeze: get them anything that doesn't look like it came from LL Bean).

They also have problems with non-chain shops and restaurants that are in older buildings and thus don't generally have good handicapped access. Or, the one "accessible" entrance is the service/freight entrance and/or the furthest point from the (not necessarily paved) parking lot. These conditions conform to the letter of ADA but not to its spirit. They live in a community that has a high proportion of retirees, too. I don't understand why businesses don't get it, but they don't seem to...

Posted by: BxNY | February 14, 2007 9:29 AM

The key to this argument lies in the word "reasonable," and other perspectives can generally be dismissed through an exercise in reductio ad absurdum.

If the burden really is on C-MART to provide Grace with whatever she believes she needs in order to shop at their store, then what do we say if she cannot, as the last comment suggested, get out of her car without assistance? Perhaps CMART could provide an employee to aid her. What if, then, Grace suggested she was unable to get into her car to begin the shopping trip? Should C-MART be responsible for providing ride-service to prospective customers? While this is an extreme argument, it helps us to focus on the idea of "reasonable accomodation."

Grace, and others, should be able to enter and navigate a business establishment under reasonable conditions, such as the use of a wheel-chair, crutches, or the like. This imposes requirements on aisle width, door size, ramp access, etc. Businesses should not be responsible for providing complete support infrastructure for all disabilities. If Grace's disability required her to have a pogo stick available, should all stores keep them on hand? Again, an extremum, but indeed, if Grace requires a motorized wheelchair, she should supply one herself.

One cannot expect all businesses to accomodate the particular needs of every person with any disability. Given the variety in disabilities (from MS through morbid obesity), such a requirement would clearly not be reasonable.

Posted by: Mike | February 14, 2007 9:33 AM

Although I'm usually a lurker rather than a poster, this topic is of particular interest to me, as my daughter and I went to the new Ikea near our home this weekend. I've been to other Ikeas, and always found it an interesting shopping experience.

I'm in the process of getting in shape for knee surgery, so I'm in pain when I walk, but I perservere to get to where I need to be.

The store is accessed up an escalator, and then you can browse through a variety of displays. Items for purchase are on the lower level. When we got to the end of the upper level, I'd had it. I hurt, and simply wanted to get to the exit, and go home, as we were shopping for a bathroom we're planning to add on, rather than one that exists now.

There is no way out, except the long, meandering path through every product pod in the store. No shortcuts, no exits. It's about .5 a mile. They don't tell you before you start off.

I asked a clerk how I could get out, as I was limping pretty badly at this point. He said he was sorry, there was no way. I just had to keep going. The man behind me was on a similar expedition, and he also complained. The clerk shrugged, politely.

I won't be going back -- too bad, as they had a lot of really interesting stuff.

Posted by: Sue in Mich | February 14, 2007 9:41 AM

"Catering to cripples"?????

Well bless your heart, JD.

Want to come over and kick my dog for a while too?

Posted by: Bill | February 14, 2007 9:45 AM

Sue in Mich - this sounds like it could be against fire regulations. It seems like there should be more than one way out. Was there any sort of emergency exit that was there but you weren't allowed to use?

Posted by: anon | February 14, 2007 9:50 AM

My wallet is disabled. Does anyone know which of the 'better' stores will accommodate me?

(Just a joke. I'm a little snow crazy today)

Posted by: Anonymous | February 14, 2007 9:54 AM

I remember when handicapped were not accommodated. Good old days....

Posted by: questionauthority | February 14, 2007 10:01 AM

I have 2 broken arms -- will C-Mart provide an employee to wipe for me if I have to use their facilities while I'm shopping there?

Posted by: Ultimate Reducio | February 14, 2007 10:01 AM

My mother is handicapped, and must use a walker. Since she brings the item she needs to be mobile, we haven't had issues with needing a store to provide for us, but we have had issues with stores simply not being accessible. We went to Green Front in Sterling once, and none of their upstairs rooms are accessible by any means other than stairs. While I understand the need to keep costs down, I don't see how it's in a store's best interest to bar some shoppers from certain areas of their stores. For us, even the low prices weren't a draw to bring us back after that (I'm able-bodied, but won't shop there because they don't accomodate the handicapped). We pretty much got the same reaction as 'Sue in Mich' at Ikea when we asked about elevators or escalators in Green Front, a shrug but no apology even.

Posted by: Amy | February 14, 2007 10:02 AM

Most Comments are correct. The store doesn't have to provide more than it thinks it is economically appropriate for it to provide to be reasonable under ADA. Remember the cost of the service or the cost of retrofitting is part of the reasonable equation. If the service is not provided the business is lost. Sometimes lost business is OK.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 14, 2007 10:16 AM

Grace, why don't you hire someone to push your wheelchair around? Or enlist a friend to help you? Sometimes life is about your ability to connect with other people, rather than to resentfully bounce, a weak atomized fragment, through life. Not every last situation in the world is best addressed by expensive, low-return catering to the disabled who want to function so-called independently. (Curiously, you never see this lonely lack of a helping hand in the Third World, where family members or helpers are everpresent, and machines are not used as a substitute.) Your trip to C Mart will be easier for all concerned if you bring your own helper, paid or volunteer. You might be happier with someone to talk to as you shop. By the way, most of the goods at C Mart are giant armchairs and furnishings and the like, so those motorized carts for the obese are not going to help you bring that sofa or huge box home.

Posted by: mediaskeptic | February 14, 2007 10:17 AM

What I think many posters are missing here is that C-Mart is ignoring the needs of a very large segment of the disabled population -- those who can walk only a limited distance.

There are quite a lot of us. In fact, practically every time you see a person who is not obviously disabled using a disabled parking space, you are looking at a person with this problem. And this population doesn't just include permanently disabled people such as Grace. It includes people like Sue and me, who are usually among the able-bodied but have temporary difficulties with walking. It also includes people like Amy's mom and me, who are using adaptive equipment (a walker for Amy's mom, crutches for me) that limits our ability to carry merchandise.

Making it possible for all of us to shop is not "catering to cripples." It's extending a welcome to everyone -- including those of you who will slip on the ice today and be among the "cripples" tomorrow and perhaps for several weeks or months thereafer.

Posted by: Lee | February 14, 2007 10:19 AM

I get headaches from seeing the color green. Will C-Mart repaint all green items in their store?

Posted by: mg | February 14, 2007 10:31 AM

Expecting stores to provide motorized wheelchairs to handicapped patrons is akin to requiring them to provide shoes to able-bodied people. It is MY responsibility to provide my mode of transportation; it is the store's responsibility to provide access. The sense of entitlement in this country is way out of control.

Posted by: voice of reason | February 14, 2007 10:36 AM

Grace is wrong. Not providing someone to push her chair is not a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is quite specific about not requiring personal services of this type.

Marcie Roth has the right approach, as she so often does. Make it a business issue and show the store where it can increase its bottom line. Show them they can make a buck serving the community of people with disabilities, which has billions in discretionary income.

While far too many people with disabilities are underemployed or unemployed, a great many are working people who want to go shopping.

As Marcie said, "What store...wouldn't want to let in as many people as possible to spend money there?"

That said, it's interesting to see the number of comments from people who are perfectly willing to discriminate against people with disabilities. I have heard similar comments from store owners, some of whom have said directly to me that "I don't care if they come here or not. I'm not changing anything." C-Mart does not seem to suffer from this problem, for which I am thankful.

Posted by: Clifford Payne | February 14, 2007 10:42 AM

The people I know personally who have handicapped parking stickers and look fine are perfectly healthy-- runners, even-- but get a handicapped sticker for convenience. Most of these people I know are executives. Of course, it makes things harder for those who look healthy but *are* actually handicapped.

Some folks are physically handicapped, others are morally handicapped. They both can get the handicapped parking stickers for their disabilities.

Posted by: Anon this time | February 14, 2007 10:48 AM

fr JD: >This sums it up, Lee. Clearly, catering to cripples is a net-lose situation, financial-wise. They will never make back in profit what it costs to buy those motorized things. Frankly, I don't see much wrong with that...<

Right now, i'm getting ready for knee surgery, and I cannot walk long distances thru grocery stores, etc. I'm grateful for when I can find a motorized scooter. Stores who REALLY want my business (and those others who can't walk) will provide a scooter. Frankly, I don't see much wrong in that. (Sound familiar??)

Posted by: Alex | February 14, 2007 10:52 AM

Yes, I have asthma, and find it a pain that everywhere you go the ash trays are right outside the doors, leaving a congregating point for smokers, or clouds of smoke to walk through. Ok, I can hold my breath and walk fast through it, no big deal. The real issue I have is in restaurants with smoking and non-smoking sections where you have to walk through the smoking section to get to non-smoking, or walk through smoking to get to the bathroom, or where there is no division or space between the two and the only difference is whether or not there is an ash tray on the table. Asthma is just as much a disability as the more obvious physical ones and yet nobody attempts to accomodate it. I do not necessarily want royal treatment for my disability, just reasonable consideration as should be extended to any human being.

Posted by: Chris | February 14, 2007 10:53 AM

SoMD has it wrong. The Constitution offers no guarantees to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." What the Constitution does offer (in the Preamble) is government that provides "a more perfect union, establish[es] justice, insure[s] domestic tranquility, provide[s] for the common defense, promote[s] the general welfare, and secure[s] the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

I hope voice of reason never suffers from a physical handicap lest s/he be "forced" to feel a sense of "entitlement" that the disabled define as "equality."

C-Mart doesn't HAVE to provide motorized chairs. But they SHOULD. Goodwill is a business asset, after all.

Posted by: James Madison | February 14, 2007 10:53 AM

I don't know which IKEA you went to, but at the IKEA by me (College Park, MD) there are "shortcuts" through the downstairs that let you skip quickly to the exit without walking around all the S-curves of merch. There are little signs with arrows, but they aren't too big and you have to look carefully.

Sounds like that employee lied to you. You should call the store manager and complain.

Posted by: to Sue in Michigan | February 14, 2007 10:53 AM

fr JD: >This sums it up, Lee. Clearly, catering to cripples is a net-lose situation, financial-wise. They will never make back in profit what it costs to buy those motorized things. Frankly, I don't see much wrong with that...<

Right now, i'm getting ready for knee surgery, and I cannot walk long distances thru grocery stores, etc. I'm grateful for when I can find a motorized scooter. Stores who REALLY want my business (and those others who can't walk) will provide a scooter. Frankly, I don't see much wrong in that. (Sound familiar??)

Posted by: Alex | February 14, 2007 10:53 AM

I don't know which IKEA you went to, but at the IKEA by me (College Park, MD) there are "shortcuts" through the downstairs that let you skip quickly to the exit without walking around all the S-curves of merch. There are little signs with arrows, but they aren't too big and you have to look carefully.

Sounds like that employee lied to you. You should call the store manager and complain.

Posted by: to Sue in Michigan | February 14, 2007 10:55 AM

Grace is wrong. Not providing someone to push her chair is not a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is quite specific about not requiring personal services of this type.

Marcie Roth has the right approach, as she so often does. Make it a business issue and show the store where it can increase its bottom line. Show them they can make a buck serving the community of people with disabilities, which has billions in discretionary income.

While far too many people with disabilities are underemployed or unemployed, a great many are working people who want to go shopping.

As Marcie said, "What store...wouldn't want to let in as many people as possible to spend money there?"

That said, it's interesting to see the number of comments from people who are perfectly willing to discriminate against people with disabilities. I have heard similar comments from store owners, some of whom have said directly to me that "I don't care if they come here or not. I'm not changing anything." C-Mart does not seem to suffer from this problem, for which I am thankful.

Posted by: Clifford Payne | February 14, 2007 10:56 AM

The IKEA near me also offers wheelchairs and an elevator, right next to the escalator. It might be worth it to get a map next time-- they do hand those out.

Posted by: Anon this time | February 14, 2007 10:58 AM

C-Mart should realize the purchasing power of the current market of folks with disabilities and the size of the future market. People are living much longer and are more likely to be disabled than in the past. In addition, the elderly spend a lot of money. Seems like a good business decision to provide accomidations.

Posted by: John Pope | February 14, 2007 10:59 AM

If a store would like to provide motorized wheelchairs and scooters to its customers, that is a lovely gesture. But I CERTAINLY don't think it's reasonable to require that it would be a necessity. I hate it when a gesture of kindness, like that of certain other stores, then becomes an expectation that everyone must adhere to. Grace should take responsibility for getting herself around the store, since she knows in advance that she has a disability. (I do agree with the person who complained about IKeA though--that place is a nightmare).

Posted by: ahh13 | February 14, 2007 11:03 AM

Yes, I have Asthma, and find it a pain that everywhere you go the ash trays are right outside the doors, leaving a congregating point for smokers, or clouds of smoke to walk through. Ok, I can hold my breath and walk fast through it, no big deal. The real issue I have is in restaurants with smoking and non-smoking sections where you have to walk through the smoking section to get to non-smoking, or walk through smoking to get to the bathroom, or where there is no division or space between the two and the only difference is whether or not there is an ash tray on the table. Asthma is just as much a disability as the more obvious physical ones and yet nobody attempts to accomodate it. I do not necessarily want royal treatment for my disability, just reasonable consideration as should be extended to any human being.

Posted by: Chris | February 14, 2007 11:05 AM

As one with a disability, I understand where Grace is coming from. That being said, I respectfully disagree with her. Our disabilities are our own to deal with. Any help from the outside is appreciated; however, we should not expect everyone to make changes on our behalf. Shopping for expensive non-necessities is a luxury, not a requirement to live. Grocery stores and other stores that carry everyday necessities already provide disabled access. If someone really 'needs' to have a luxury good, more power to them, but please do not expect to be hand carried throughout the process unless you are a multi-millionaire shopping at an exclusive store.

Posted by: Bill | February 14, 2007 11:06 AM

Dang, sorry for the double post... I think my computer is freaking out because of all the news about the snow. LOL

Posted by: Chris | February 14, 2007 11:10 AM

I am certainly tired of people who seem to have no compassion on others who do not have either the economic advantages or the physical well being that they so absent mindedly enjoy. I am a handicapped war veteran who lost a leg through no fault of my own. I cannot afford a motorized chair. If a store can afford one then I am thankful for that. If not then that's their option. I do not think it is fair for people to criticize this woman unless you have "walked a mile in her shoes". Many abled-bodied people take for granted the freedoms that they enjoy. They don't know what it is like to be denied access to something that everyone else can take part in. As a "crippled person" (as someone called us)I am not asking for handouts just a little bit of understanding that everyone is not the same. Large companies that want to trade in the marketplace should reasonably understand that fair access is the cost of doing business.

Posted by: just plain sickaboutthis | February 14, 2007 11:10 AM

What kind of dog, Bill?

Sorry, the word 'cripple' may be heartless. I'm sure it offends some people. Next time, I'll go with 'crip', assuming people understand I don't mean the gang.

Posted by: JD | February 14, 2007 11:12 AM

I am certainly tired of people who seem to have no compassion on others who do not have either the economic advantages or the physical well being that they so absent mindedly enjoy. I am a handicapped war veteran who lost a leg through no fault of my own. I cannot afford a motorized chair. If a store can afford one then I am thankful for that. If not then that's their option. I do not think it is fair for people to criticize this woman unless you have "walked a mile in her shoes". Many abled-bodied people take for granted the freedoms that they enjoy. They don't know what it is like to be denied access to something that everyone else can take part in. As a "crippled person" (as someone called us)I am not asking for handouts just a little bit of understanding that everyone is not the same. Large companies that want to trade in the marketplace should reasonably understand that fair access is the cost of doing business.

Posted by: just plain sickaboutthis | February 14, 2007 11:12 AM

C-mart may not realize the purchasing power of the current or future market of disabled customers because the C-mart personnel don't see those people in their stores.

Why don't they see them? Because those people don't patronize establishments that don't accommodate their needs.

If you want to get a better perspective on the size of the disabled population, you need to visit stores -- or entertainment venues -- that meet disabled customers or patrons halfway.

One great example is the Strathmore concert hall in Bethesda -- a facility that is designed to accommodate disabled patrons. The last time I was there, they were even able to provide a seat for a guy in a wheelchair who had his leg, in a cast, sticking straight out in front of him -- a difficult challenge in any auditorium. Strathmore has elevators; shuttles from the parking garage to the concert hall; accessible seats in every price range and section of the hall; and knowledgeable, courteous ushers who are happy to provide patrons with information, assistance, and courtesy wheelchairs.

There are lots of people with mobility impairments at practically every performance at Strathmore -- all of whom have spent rather big bucks on their concert tickets.

I guess this segment of the consuming public won't be shopping at C-Mart.

Posted by: Cathy | February 14, 2007 11:27 AM

I am able-bodied, but think it is a nice gesture when stores have scooters or wheelchairs for their patrons to use, even if I was nearly run over by a lady on a scooter in Wal-Mart last week.

But in the interest of looking at solutions and not problems, what are the alternatives? Stores that don't offer these services could start, but would have to raise prices. The government could require them, but that would be burdensome and much more detailed than existing ADA requirements. Finally, shoppers who need accommodation can do their research before leaving home. Personally, I hate shopping malls, grocery stores, and any other situation where there are other shoppers, out-of-control children, cell-phone chatterers, and parking problems.

My personal solution? The Internet. I do a lot of shopping on the Internet. On the whole, I save a lot of money on clothing, accessories, and media, without the hassle of a brick-and-mortar. All from the safety of my home or office. I'm sure anyone who wants to can find a good deal on a designer handbag on the Internet.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 14, 2007 11:49 AM

I am able-bodied, but think it is a nice gesture when stores have scooters or wheelchairs for their patrons to use, even if I was nearly run over by a lady on a scooter in Wal-Mart last week.

But in the interest of looking at solutions and not problems, what are the alternatives? Stores that don't offer these services could start, but would have to raise prices. The government could require them, but that would be burdensome and much more detailed than existing ADA requirements. Finally, shoppers who need accommodation can do their research before leaving home. Personally, I hate shopping malls, grocery stores, and any other situation where there are other shoppers, out-of-control children, cell-phone chatterers, and parking problems.

My personal solution? The Internet. I do a lot of shopping on the Internet. On the whole, I save a lot of money on clothing, accessories, and media, without the hassle of a brick-and-mortar. All from the safety of my home or office. I'm sure anyone who wants to can find a good deal on a designer handbag on the Internet.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 14, 2007 11:51 AM

While we, as a society, should be sensitive to people with disabilities, the fact is that they are in deed DISABLED. By definition, they are unable to do certain things for themselves. In life, we all have things we can or cannot do. We find ways to do them - provided we at least get access. It is unreasonable to go through life with a disability expecting no inconvenience. It is a burden, no doubt, but it to a point does belong to the person with the disability.

With that said, again, we should do what we can to help within reason. Providing a wheelchair and adequate space is certainly a good move. But if the individual needs more assistance than that, then they are going to have to accept that responsibility. Also a little perspective is necessary - is a designer handbag worth litigation?

Finally, there is something to be said about approach. None of us were present during the conversation that Grace had with the store. Judging by the tone of the article, it probably started rather defensively with a tone of entitlement. As a business owner, frankly, I have difficulty wanting to accommodate anyone that approaches me in this way. However if someone approaches me with a reasonable problem in a respectful way, I'll be inclined to help in any way I can.

Posted by: Erik | February 14, 2007 11:56 AM

Thanks to James Madison for correcting my mistake.

The phrase "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is one of the most famous phrases in the United States Declaration of Independence. These three aspects are listed among of the "unalienable rights" of man.

My bad.

To "Anon this time" concerning your executive friends who get handicapped placards for convenience even though they have no visible handicap:

Not all handicaps are visible. In this case, it appears the handicap is mental.

Posted by: SoMD | February 14, 2007 12:00 PM

Thanks to James Madison for correcting my mistake.

The phrase "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is one of the most famous phrases in the United States Declaration of Independence. These three aspects are listed among of the "unalienable rights" of man.

Oops, my bad.

To "Anon this time" concerning your executive friends who get handicapped placards for convenience even though they have no visible handicap:

Not all handicaps are visible. In this case, it appears the handicap is mental.

Posted by: SoMD | February 14, 2007 12:13 PM

Thanks to James Madison for correcting my mistake.

The phrase "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is one of the most famous phrases in the United States Declaration of Independence. These three aspects are listed among of the "unalienable rights" of man.

Oops, my bad.

To "Anon this time" concerning your executive friends who get handicapped placards for convenience even though they have no visible handicap:

Not all handicaps are visible. In this case, it appears the handicap is mental.

Posted by: SoMD | February 14, 2007 12:17 PM

Did anyone notice that the C-Mart is JUST opening and that the article said that the store could only round up one manual wheelchair FOR THIS WEEKEND? Sometimes it takes time for an establishment to get all the items it needs in time for its grand opening. Maybe the situation will change in a few weeks.

Posted by: eagleeye | February 14, 2007 12:26 PM

i feel for grace but i also find the irony in her story. if she is so disabled, it sounds like a motorized scooter should be a necessity. and i don't know the specifics, but when my grandmother was full disabled, hers was free. but it sounds as though it is worth more to grace to go out of her way to get a designer purse on discount, that most would consider a luxury, than it is to inquire into a necessary scooter

Posted by: anon | February 14, 2007 12:28 PM

to just plain sickaboutthis | February 14, 2007 11:10 AM

Your disability and accomodations to make you able to live and work are the responsibility of the Veterans Administration. If you need a wheelchair, it's their responsibility to make you mobile.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 14, 2007 12:32 PM

I sympathize with Grace, but she is legally in the wrong here. However, I do think it's good she making a big stink about it, because I think it will prompt C-Mart to get some motorized wheelchairs ASAP.

Frankly, those big box stores are pretty overwhelming for the young and able-bodied. If you're elderly or temporarily or permanently disabled, those stores can be impossible without a scooter (whereas a smaller store could be manageable).

Posted by: mizbinkley | February 14, 2007 12:38 PM

"She's had run-ins with store managers and security guards over accessibility issues in the past. A guard at a CVS once called the police on her once..."

Might there be a lot more to this story? I've read and seen several print/broadcast stories about shakedown artists who have made a cottage industry about of filing mass ADA complaints and letting the relatively minor cash settlements add up.

I'm not saying that Grace is in this boat at all, as I don't know. But I'd be curious to know how many ADA complaints she has filed in the past and whether or not she has a history of reaping cash settlements.

At the very least, if she's causing store security to call the police on her, it implies considerably more than a polite request for a chair.

Posted by: Chris Nicholson | February 14, 2007 12:51 PM

Chris Nicholson, I also get the impression that Grace is an agitator (whether she's reaped any financial reward is another matter).

However, I think her actions are bringing attention to an important matter, and that she's intentionally or not, pressuring stores to give greater consideration to the less, oh, vocal, elderly/temporarily or permanently disabled.

Posted by: mizbinkley | February 14, 2007 12:58 PM

I have a mobility impairment, and am among what appears to be a majority that believes stores of C-mart's size should ensure their aisles are sufficiently wide and their entrances ramped, but that offering scooters is an additional service, not an entitlement, that may be good business. Plenty of businesses distinguish themselves based on better service. I did want to respond to the previous poster who referenced "shake-down artists" -- that's a MYTH, perpetrated by business owners and sometimes bought into by the media because it's alarmist and attracts attention. You really can't make money exercising your rights under the ADA. Unlike just about every other civil rights law, plaintiffs are not entitled to real damages when it comes to ADA enforcement. It's a very under-enforced law as a result.

Posted by: Guest | February 14, 2007 1:17 PM

I don't believe the store should be mandated to provide chairs or scooters, but kudos to those who do so.
Accessibility simply mainly means that all parts of the store and its public facilities (such as restrooms) can be reached.
While I'm the first to sing the praises of store who go the extra mile, I won't condemn those that either do not or cannot.
I will condemn any store that lists itself as accessible, but is not.

That being said, I think that State / County / District / City / Town (depending on region, laws and responsibilit) officials should be made to inspect businesses to ensure accessibility is met and should do so regularly to ensure it's maintained.
Moreover, they should be made to do so in a manual wheelchair.
Many times, I see ramps that are only technically ramps, but are useless to those who actually use them.
many times, I see restroom stalls that are listed as accessible, but won't fit a manual chair.

Personally, I simply note my objections and/or concerns with the manager of the store/restaurant and then never go back.

The bottom line is that, except for those rare and magnificent exceptions, businesses will only adopt change if it meets the bottom line.
Unless the loss of customers' buying or fines from the local governing body don't overtake the "almighty profit margin", change is slow or only aesthetic.

Posted by: Mike in FallsChurch | February 14, 2007 1:35 PM

dear guest, I've met your "myth" up close and in person....and they were ugly human beings all around.

Posted by: jeffl | February 14, 2007 1:50 PM

To 1232. My lung problems stem from my exposure to nasty stuff when I was on active duty. As I am a disabled vet as well, does that mean that it is the responsibility of the VA to make people stop smoking in areas where it might cause a problem with my lungs, or should the businesses be more accomodating with their layout.

Posted by: Chris | February 14, 2007 1:53 PM

All of the people above who pointed out that even if it isn't required by the ADA, providing a scooter, and assistance if needed, are right on the money. Because it's simply good business; it makes sales. Sales = money.

However, when one "demands" things, they automatically create adversarial situations. Diplomacy and logic usually work better than demanding.

But there are managers out there who see only the "cost to them", and not how to add to the bottom. Those types are incorrigible, until upper managment becomes aware of it, and "takes them to the woodshed."

Posted by: DC | February 14, 2007 2:27 PM

" it's simply good business; it makes sales. Sales = money. "

But the question is, do the profits from the additional sales outweigh the cost of the motorized chair?

Those motorized chairs are expensive. Is one chair sufficient or does the store need two? How long do they last? How much do they cost to repair and maintain?

Posted by: Dan | February 14, 2007 2:56 PM

(1) Serves her right for shopping at Walmart. Go shop at little local stores. Quit patronizing the mega-box stores owned by multi-national coporations and support your local shops who usually have a better selection anyhow.

What is so surprising that Walmart isn't into extending a courtesy to disabled shoppers? They are the ones who put it in writing in Nov. or so of 2005 that they wanted to get rid of older employees and those with health problems - only the young and healthy need apply for a job.

(2) She has NO legal right to having public facilities (stores to government offices) provide her with transportation - motorized or otherwise - in and around the facility. I'm a retired labor lawyer.

(3) A poster above said "This means that neither Grace nor I can shop at C-Mart unless we either 1) travel with a companion, or 2) use an in-store ride provided by C-Mart. Having to bring a second person with me to go shopping is so inconvenient that I rarely do it. I suspect Grace feels the same way."

Quit whining. I am disabled (sports injuy, massive nerve damage) and when I'm not up to managing on mine own from the pain (50% of the year) or doing a task that requires lifting or carrying more than 5 lbs (all the time), I ALWAYS take someone along.


My "someone" happens to be my Service Dog who is 29" at that shoulder and about 120 Lbs. He carries everything in his huge backpacks - up to 20 lbs of stuff: he 'gets and brings' objects on command; he is right next to me if I need to lean on him: and he helps me up when I need it..... Pretty cheap help (he works for dog food and pets) and he ADORES going shopping. (Of course, when he sees a stranger on crutches, with a cane, in a wheelchair or in a motorized scooter, he thinks he should go help them too - much nicer natured and kinder than most human beings.)

(4) Those scooters are very expensive - about $10,000 -15,000 each.

Posted by: AnnS | February 14, 2007 3:21 PM

My son has Cerebral Palsy. Since he's just 2 years old, my family has only recently started to experience the hostility toward people with disabilities that is expressed in many of these posts. We use a wheelchair to get him around, or we carry him to a shopping card, and we have a handicapped tag for our car (both required a GREAT deal of paperwork and effort). And yet, just recently my wife had a hateful, obscene note pinned to her windshield for parking in a handicapped space. Folks, we deal with enough -- if you are not able to be compassionate, please at least be sure of your facts.

Posted by: Nick's Dad | February 14, 2007 3:29 PM

Mart Carts do *not* cost 10 to $15K. I've priced them at $2K from the manufacturer. Why? I have both a power scooter and a power wheelchair but neither device is designed as a "shopping" chair with oversized baskets required for carrying goods. I know every store that has motor scooters available in the area because they are the only places I can shop.

Despite what other posters have said, Wal-Mart is to be congratulated as a store that almost *always* has motorized carts at the DOOR, ready to go. Sure, Giant and HomeDepot have them too, but they hide them away and one must find a manager, ask for a cart and then stand around waiting until it arrives. Even then, it's likely to be broken, have no charge in the batteries, or like Home Depot's cart, only able to move backwards!

As for the able-bodied posters who seem to despise us "crips" I'll paraphrase I.M. Pei who reminded us to accommodate the disabled because statistics prove almost all of us will be disabled at some point in our life, whether from accident or disease.

Peggy M.

Posted by: PeggyM | February 14, 2007 4:11 PM

i'm sorry to hear of the anguish with which for family must deal. having a child with disabilities must be heartbreaking enough, even without hostile people. again, i feel like there is much more to your story than what you have revealed. i'm not naive. i know the world is not a perfect place. i also know that it's not as rotten as the treatment you have described. is it that you feel entitled to special treatment a compensation for a family disability (b/c when one family member suffers, it tends to affect the whole family)? are you overly sensitive b/c you are trying to further protect your child (not a judgement, just an understanding of how a parent will feel guilt even in situations completely unpreventable and how that can manifest into other feelings and emotions)?
my point of these questions is that we can't generalize one side or the other. let's hope everyone on this board lends a hand, in whatever way possible, when they see someone in need

Posted by: to: Nick's Dad | February 14, 2007 4:12 PM

I should have also noted that my wife has MS and uses a wheelchair or scooter when we go out (we own both).
I've grown very conscious of accessibility since we met and began dating. Some places score high, other places I'd love to see fined for sham accessibility violations.

I'd also like to expand my above inspection recommendations to include public sidewalks and the like.
The inspectors and those laying the cement should be made to roll up and down the sidewalks before they claim it's finished and to-code.

To Nick's Dad,
I've seen looks tossed our way when parking at times. My car (pre-marriage) is a sports car that was kept only because her manual chair fits in the trunk.
Many will see me pull into a handicapped slot and only go away once they see me pull the chair out, assemble it and help her out of the passenger seat.

That being said, I also have friends with a handicapped child who admit to using the tag when the child is not present if no other convenient spots are available.
If such is the case, and I'm not saying it is, I can understand (though definately not condone) the reaction of those who left the note in the unlikely chance they witnessed you or your wife doing this type of thing.
The tag is for your child only. It is not for you, your wife or anyone else. If the child is not present, the tag should never be used.
I can honestly say that I've never used the tag when my wife was not present. This is mainly because I think about others that are like her, I put myself in their places and hope that other people do likewise.

Posted by: Mike in FallsChurch | February 14, 2007 4:25 PM

Here's the thing -- Nick was there (we make a point only to use the HC spaces when Nick is with us). My wife left the wheelchair in the car so she could use the shopping cart. Point being, if a car has tags, why leave a hateful note. I mean, it was really vile. And as I talk with other parents of disabled kids, they've experienced the same thing. But back to my original question -- why this anger directed toward handicapped people?

Posted by: Nick's Dad | February 14, 2007 4:40 PM

See, there's the situation. If you're not using the wheelchair, why use the spot? I can see why ignorant people would think their thoughts. The child's 2, I'm sure he doesn't look handicap, as many people generally don't these days. With all the "fakers" out there, I can see it happening. Writing a note is pretty sad, though. Unless it was from someone who really needed the spot more.

There are carts and cart "corales" in most of the parking lots of shopping centers, no need to "walk" to the store to get one to use.

Posted by: Confused. | February 14, 2007 5:04 PM

We use the handicapped spot when we have our handicapped child with us because he's heavy and it makes a difference being able to park close to the store (you'll note the handicapped spaces are not next to the cart corrals). Think about it -- every time we go anywhere with just one parent, we need to decide whether it makes most sense to use our wheelchair, carry him to a cart, or come up with some other plan. Multiply that by 5-6 stops on a typical outing. And now we need to also think about who will be judging whether we should have used the handicapped spot at that particular time.

Folks, that's why there's so much paperwork to go through to get the permanent tags in the first place. The issue isn't whether someone looks handicapped or not, it's whether their doctor (usually doctors) and their state DMV have determined that they qualify, based on objective criteria.

Here's the thing -- if someone has handicapped tags, why not assume they are legit, rather than assume they are fakers. At the least, it will keep your blood pressure down.

Posted by: Nick's Dad | February 14, 2007 5:22 PM

It bothers me that so many people judge people without knowing all the facts. MS is a strange disease and effects people in all different ways - it also changes frequently in some people, meaning some days you are fully able to get around and some days you could really use a wheelchair. I have MS and am fairly able-bodied. My husband has suggested we get a HC card 'just in case', and I have refused since I can almost always walk the distance. However, everybody's disease effects them differently. My point is that people should not judge - the invisible disabilites are just as real, and they are not always 'mental' as some have suggested.

Posted by: invisible disability | February 14, 2007 5:56 PM

The ADA states that a public accommodation (business) is not required to provide personal devices such as wheelchairs; individually prescribed devices (e.g., prescription eyeglasses or hearing aids); or services of a personal nature including assistance in eating, toileting, or dressing. If Grace needs a mobility aid to traverse long distances then according to the law (ADA) she is responsible for providing such mobility aid, not the business. Those businesses that do provide mobility aids for customers are going above and beyond the law.

Posted by: Disability Rights & Resources | February 15, 2007 9:48 AM

Nick's Dad,
I don't think that the anger was meant to be directed at the disabled.
The primary problem with the HC Cards is that is can be used by anyone who has it.
When no mobility device is seen, there's an assumption that the person is likely not the one for whom the Card is issued.

While it's true that the person's name is printed on the card, I don't think I've ever seen any law-enforcement personnel stop and ask a Card User for ID to verify the the Card's true owner is present.

To make matters worse, getting a medical statement for obtaining an HC Card is not really that difficult. It's easy enough to convince a Doctor about mobility issues. Many don't require proof of any permanent disability before they sign off. It's not much different than other perscriptions they'll issue. While many Doctors are very strict about this, many more are not.

That being said, it's not the public's place to take any corrective action against those they feel might be illegally utilizing an HC Card.
If you feel strongly that the person parking is not authorized to use the card, I'd suggest flagging down an officer or calling the non-emergency number to request it be checked.

I never question (openly, though sometimes I wonder to myself) someone who has a Card.
However, those who still park in HC Spots with no tag or card will get their picture taken. You've just got to love cellphones with cameras.
The only thing I'd like to now find is a website which publishes such photos, though I'm not sure about the legality of it all (hence not making such a site myself).

Posted by: Mike in Fallschurch | February 15, 2007 11:15 AM

Anger directed at people who do not appear to be "disabled" at first glance is indeed a very real phenomenon. I believe it stems from society's idea of fairness, and those who are not recognizably disabled are assumed to be cheats. They are assumed to be getting something that is not available to nondisabled people, and that leg up is just what inspires these reactions from people, warrented or not.

One of my roommates is deafblind. Looking at him, you wouldn't know he was either. However, his visual field is reduced to the equivalent of looking out at the world through two toilet paper tubes used the same way you use binoculars. Tunnel vision. Because his eyes are responsive to what he does see, and he doesn't "look" blind, I've seen people give him dirty looks and refuse to move out of the way of his cane (especially on the Metro). Because he is independent and not helpless looking, people get the craziest ideas about him. You can almost read their minds: "He isn't really blind. Faker!"

The tone of some commenters here is not surprising at all. The idea that disabled people should accept that they are now less than fully human and give up participating in many areas of human social life because they require assistance that may put someone else out in terms of time or money is common. And it is wrong. As a disabled person myself (deaf), I cannot WAIT until people with no current disabilities suddenly find themselves wearing the scarlet "D" and needing assistance, whether temporary or permanent. I cannot wait until they wake up and realize that your humanity does not diminish with your physical abilities, and they find out how distasteful it it to be shoved into the proverbial dusty closet because somehow other humans cannot find it in themselves to be openminded and accommodating to human diversity.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | February 15, 2007 11:53 AM

One note to the disabled-vet-hero-gimmie respect-hurtthroughnofaultofmyown poster: I know of very few people whose disabilities are their fault.

Why not climb down from your high horse? Or just be honest and say, "Hey guys, I have nothing to add to the conversation. I just want applause for being a war veteran. I'm waaaaaaitng."

Posted by: Sigh | February 15, 2007 1:45 PM

I hope karma bites some of you on your non-compassionate butts when you're walking through the snow. Let's see how your idea of entitlement changes when it's you who wants to buy something "non essential" or go someplace and can't because you're now temporarily disabled. Not to mention, we'll all either get old or die. When you can't get around because of your age you'll change your tune.

Posted by: sheesh | February 15, 2007 3:37 PM

DMV in Virginia will not investigate any complaints about people having handicapped plates. There was a call made about a coworker who BRAGGED about getting a handicapped plate for a leg injury and BRAGS about running 3 miles a day. All of this information was relayed and DMV said if the doctor said he was handicapped, it wasn't up to DMV to decide or check it out.

I've also worked in a doctor's office and some people just tried their best to wear down my boss and get him to sign off on a handicapped form. If you find the right doctor and they'll sign it, you can have a handicapped plate, etc. It's unfair to the other real handicapped people, that's for sure.

Posted by: Guest | February 15, 2007 6:38 PM

Something I think many people are missing is that the store IS providing a wheelchair, just not the motorized one the person wants.

The persons NEEDS are being met, just not their WANTS. BIG difference, HUGE difference.

Posted by: Greg Stitz | February 15, 2007 9:20 PM

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