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Apple sued for ignoring disability law

updated 11:35 am EDT, Thu August 30, 2007

Apple hit with lawsuit

Two women bound to wheelchairs are suing Apple for failing to abide by accessibility laws in its retail stores. The women last Friday filed a 17-page lawsuit claiming that Apple violated the federal Americans With Disabilities Act and the California Health and Safety Code because it fails to offer "full and equal" access to disabled persons at its San Francisco flagship store, according to AppleInsider. The plaintiffs cite separate store visits where both experienced frustration and humiliation as a result of their conditions. The plaintiffs said they were unable to reach products or service desks at the retail shop, and one of the women recounted how she was unable to watch a Genius Bar technician service a software issue which, she claims, was deemed repaired but still remaimed when she returned home.

Further complaints include elevator buttons that are out of reach for those bound to wheelchairs, no wheelchair pathways or seating for the store's theater area, and poor setups for purchasing goods. One plaintiff remembers having to sign for a computer game purchase, but notes that the store clerk had to climb beneath the sales counter to untangle wires and pull the credit card system off the counter so that she could reach the equipment which caused an embarrassing scene.

The women also said the Apple Store staff seemed to unintentionally ignore them, leaving the disabled customers to fend for themselves before other customers in the store asked them whether they needed help obtaining software.

Lawyers representing plaintiffs Nicole Brown-Booker and Jana Overbo are seeking a jury trial with compensation for emotional and physical losses incurred by Apple's alleged neglect of disabled persons. The women said they are more interested in changing the store to better accommodate their disabilities than punishing the Cupertino-based company, and added that they will both return to the store once "legally required access" is added.




by MacNN Staff

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  1. mgpalma

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Yeah, right

    " are seeking a jury trial with compensation for emotional and physical losses incurred by Apple's alleged neglect of disabled persons. The women said they are more interested in changing the store to better accommodate their disabilities than punishing the Cupertino-based company"

    They want 'compensation.' As they say, follow the money...

  1. Athens

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Only in America

    Only in America, nuff said.

  1. bleee

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    WoW

    I'm surprised Mac zealots don't have the decency to leave this one alone. I guess you can say they really stick to their guns "Apple can do no wrong". Not everyone is seeking money when they sue some people just want to set things right...

    We had a law suit recently on the same subject matter... the local transit authority refused to call out the stops for the visually impaired the suit went on for many year and finally they won. Now all the bus drivers have to do is call out the stops.

  1. brlittle

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Hmm.

    Yeah, having a hard time with a lot of this.

    First, it seems unlikely that a company as astute as Apple typically is would miss something this important. They do have blinders, but not usually like that.

    "The plaintiffs cite separate store visits where both experienced frustration and humiliation as a result of their conditions."

    I'm not in a wheelchair, and I often get frustrated with retail. Does that mean I can sue?

    "The plaintiffs said they were unable to reach products or service desks at the retail shop,"

    The law does not, unless I'm mistaken, require that companies limit shelf heigh to four feet. It merely requires that they make reasonable accomodations. You know, like _asking for assistance_. It's not hard, nor is it humiliating.

    "and one of the women recounted how she was unable to watch a Genius Bar technician service a software issue which, she claims, was deemed repaired but still remaimed when she returned home."

    Does she also plan to sue her auto mechanic for not allowing her in the service bay? This is not junior calculus -- they aren't required to show their work. Merely to produce a result. You don't get to sue because you couldn't watch.

    "elevator buttons that are out of reach for those bound to wheelchairs"

    That should be fixed, if true.

    "no wheelchair pathways or seating for the store's theater area, and poor setups for purchasing goods."

    Bogus. Wheelchair seating is behind the back row in the theater areas, and (a) the sales counters are fairly low, and (b) you can always buy from a roving sales specialist with a checkout handheld.

    "One plaintiff remembers having to sign for a computer game purchase, but notes that the store clerk had to climb beneath the sales counter to untangle wires and pull the credit card system off the counter so that she could reach the equipment which caused an embarrassing scene."

    So the clerk should have referred her to one of the rovers from (b) above.

    "The women also said the Apple Store staff seemed to unintentionally ignore them, leaving the disabled customers to fend for themselves before other customers in the store asked them whether they needed help obtaining software."

    Key word: "unintentionally." _IF_ they were ignored, and I question whether they were and how they could prove it, then it's a simple courtesy issue, not a legal violation.

    My family has been in the business of accommodating wheelchair-bound and otherwise handicapped individuals for thirty years, and I can honestly say that this doesn't sound like discrimination. In fact, it whiffs of someone looking for cause to be offended, and seeking to make a buck off it.

    For shame.

  1. Buran

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    It's a real complaint

    It's a fair complaint under the ADA. I'm disabled myself (in a different way, no wheelchair or crutches) and it's not uncommon for me to experience some difficulties in some places. Not at Apple Stores, but there are some things I can't deal with.

    Instead of screaming "they just want money", put yourself in the place of someone who needs help sometimes to do the same things other people can do. We, the disabled, are often confronted by people who don't care, or who cause us more problems, whether from indifference or just not caring. Sometimes, bringing suit is the only way to get businesses to pay attention.

    It seems as if this problem could be solved by installing lower counters in a few places so that those in wheelchairs can make use of them. If many public restrooms can install a lower sink or two to accommodate wheelchairs, why is it apparently so unreasonable to ask retail stores to do the same?

    I see the fanboys come out and defend everything Apple does and claim that every single lawsuit against them is baseless, but c'mon. Put yourself in the place of someone who, by no choice of theirs, just needs and wants a little help, and imagine that no one will give it to you (I suppose because doing so would cost them money). You've exhausted all other options, and there's this federal law that says that you have to get that assistance.

    You can either throw up your hands and wait for something to change (hint: it won't if it costs Big Business money) or you can try to effect change using the means available.

    Or ... you can pretend you know better and post tripe on discussion boards. Which, apparently, was the choice.

    It's free, makes you look smug and superior, and a know-it-all.

    Figures.

  1. GreenMnM

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    california?

    The Federal Americans With Disabilities Act only applies to government/public buildings. It has nothing to do with private, retail stores. Adding that to the suit is clearly a ploy to grab attention. Hopefully their lawyers are aware of this. If not, they need new lawyers. I don't know about the California Health and Safety Code, though, it may include non-government buildings.

  1. macbones

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    BS

    Umm. Reading through this is really quite nauseating. Obviously fishing for cash. I really cannot think of a store with a more open layout than Apple.

  1. Buran

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    responding to post...

    brlittle,

    It's not unreasonable for lower counters or something similar to be installed. Were I in a wheelchair, I would want the same opportunity to examine products that anyone else has. Sure, I could ask someone to help me, but do you really think they will lift a tower, keyboard, monitor, mousepad, etc., off the display counter and hold it there so I could try it out? They can't even be moved (at least not far), as they're tied down to prevent theft!

    All that really needs to be done here is to lower the counters to usable-by-wheelchair-users height or to add one or two display areas that are lower, and take a few seats out of the theater area, as commercial theaters do, to allow wheelchairs to be placed among the audience. Go to a movie theater and you'll see gaps in the seats in front of the aisle that are designed for this purpose, with a seat or three marked as being for companions of wheelchair users. That is not difficult to do.

    Claiming that the store personnel don't have to show you what they are working on because auto mechanics don't is also baseless. Auto mechanics don't because their insurers specifically bar customers from the service bay, although they will temporarily let you in if they need to show you something on your vehicle but then they escort you back out. That restriction doesn't exist in a computer repair depot, and the genius bars specifically are designed to let you see what's going on and the staff will let you watch. On top of that, the genius bar counter, at least in my store, is even higher than the display area counters are and is therefore even more out of reach for someone in a wheelchair.

    It certainly is a reasonable accomodation to ask for lower counters in at least some places. In fact they would probably be cheaper due to using less raw materials in the construction of them!

    I deal with my own disability every day. I have first-hand experience with how it feels. Do you?

  1. robttwo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    what about me?

    They let me use the bathroom there and I hit my d*** on the bottom of the urinal.

    What about compensation....????

  1. Buran

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    macbones ...

    A store can have a wide-open layout and still not be usable by someone in a wheelchair. Again, the amount of "Apple can do no wrong" and "blame the victim" zealotry I see in these forums is sickening. Put yourself in her, er, wheels -- rent a wheelchair and try to go through a day that way. See how many times you run into trouble as a result of bad design, lack of staff training, and other obstacles placed in front of you by unknowing (or unthinking) un-handicapped architects. Try putting earplugs in your ears that block out sound and go through a day (maybe the same day, maybe a different day) as a deaf person and you'll find a whole pile of completely different problems resulting from that. And so on.

    Then, and only then, ask yourself if the ADA lawsuits you read about are, as you claim, nothing but money grabs.

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