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Apple accused of short-shrifting disabled retail shoppers

post #1 of 110
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Two San Francisco women have filed a lawsuit that accuses Apple of largely ignoring accessibility laws at one of its retail stores, making shopping or service trips all but impossible for those who use a wheelchair.

Filed this past Friday in a Northern District of California court, the 17-page suit claims that Apple has simultaneously violated both the federal Americans With Disabilities Act as well as the California Health and Safety Code by failing to provide "full and equal" access at its San Francisco flagship shop on One Stockton Street.

Both of the plaintiffs, Nicole Brown-Booker and Jana Overbo, require wheelchairs and recount separate experiences in May and July of this year which they characterized as both frustrating and humiliating. In both cases, neither woman was able to properly reach products or service desks at the store -- most of which were placed on a table or counter far out of reach. For Overbo, this meant a wasted trip. Unlike other customers, she was unable to watch as a Genius Bar technician serviced a software issue she had been experiencing on her Mac. Although the technician claimed to have "fixed" the issue, Overbo returned home with her Mac only to discover the software issue remained.

Access to each of the common features of the store was difficult in general, the women added. Neither of the complainants could reach the elevator buttons on their own, and the store's presentation theater had no wheelchair accessible seating areas or passageways needed to attend one of Apple's instructional workshops. Just completing a purchase was difficult due to the height of the cash registers, the plaintiffs said. To accommodate Brown-Booker's need to sign for a computer game, one store clerk needed to crawl underneath the cashiers' stand, untangle wires, and then pull the credit card system off the counter. This took some time and drew undue attention to Brown-Booker's disability, forcing other customers to wait behind her.

While the Stockton Street venue was itself difficult to navigate, the problem was allegedly compounded by a lack of help from the Apple's retail staff. Many seemed to unintentionally ignore both of the women, leaving them at the mercy of a few kind customers who eventually asked if they needed help selecting software titles from the store's shelves.

At the Genius Bar, it was not even clear that the Genius Bar staff could see over the counter to spot a customer in a wheelchair, Overbo told the representing law firm for the complaint, the Law Offices of Paul L. Rein. Similarly, she was unable to properly check in for her Genius Bar appointment or view the LCD displays listing the order of upcoming appointments. She was forced to wheel back-and-forth across the length of the bar, desperately attempting to inform staffers that she had arrived for her appointment.

The Genius Bar at Apple's San Francisco flagship shop on One Stockton Street

It's apparent from these occurrences, the two women said, that Apple retail stores do not have a policy in place to assist handicapped shoppers. And if they do, it wasn't being followed.

Since modifying the building is entirely within Apple's reach, the company has no legal excuse to avoid obeying the federal and state laws for granting access, according to the lawsuit. And with no measures in place to have employees serve disabled customers, both of the plaintiffs have warned that they and any other disabled customers would continue to face discrimination simply by entering the store.

The lawyers representing Brown-Booker and Overbo are requesting a jury trial with compensation for the emotional and physical losses caused by Apple's seemingly neglectful approach. But as becomes evident in the lawsuit, both women are less interested in punitive action and more in successfully pressing for the needed changes to the building's layout and employee policies, letting either of them return to the Stockton Street outlet as equals to their fellow customers.

The plaintiffs fully "intend to return and patronize this Store, once legally required access has been provided," according to the suit.
post #2 of 110
I agree that the stores are not 'wheelchair' friendly in terms of counter height and employee assistance, but I suspect they meet the legally required access rules. i.e. wheelchairs can get into the store and move to all floors unaided.

Ian
post #3 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by parky View Post

I agree that the stores are not 'wheelchair' friendly in terms of counter height and employee assistance, but I suspect they meet the legally required access rules. i.e. wheelchairs can get into the store and move to all floors unaided.

Ian

Not really, as neither of the women could reach the elevator buttons on their own, according to the complaint.

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post #4 of 110
Sad if true.

Sadder still if contrived.
post #5 of 110
Mark down another useless lawsuit in the book.

"...compensation for the emotional and physical losses caused by Apple's seemingly neglectful approach"

"...both women are less interested in punitive action and more in successfully pressing for the needed changes to the building's layout and employee policies..."

Sounds like a crock of shit to me.

Yes, I understand that the plaintiffs had issues with accessing various things in the apple store. You know what you do? Inform the manager. You don't file a lawsuit.

My aunt is handicapped, permanently in a wheel chair, and she doesn't have the luxury of these ladies to be able to move on her own. She has to be wheeled around by one of us.

As for the workers, that is once again not a problem with Apple themselves. That is an issue that *gasp* the manager of that store should deal with!

Lawsuits are for people who are having issues with right and wrong. Not for people trying to get results after only ONE trip to a store. Now if they had gone maybe 3-5 times, each time noticing the issues, and each time informing the manager, then yes, Apple needs to step in and replace the manager with a competent one. But from what I've read, this is an issue that could have been taken care of with the manager instead of wasting even more of taxpayers money.
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post #6 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

At the Genius Bar, it was not even clear that the Genius Bar staff could see over the counter to spot a customer in a wheelchair, Overbo told the representing law firm for the complaint, the Law Offices of Paul L. Rein. Similarly, she was unable to properly check in for her Genius Bar appointment or view the LCD displays listing the order of upcoming appointments.

Lets be serious for just a second... I'm all for making life easier for all citizens... why should Apple be held to a different standard then lets say...

My local sandwich deli
My local walk-in bank
My local pharmacy
My local police station
My local (less than genius) bar
My airport checkin counter

These are just a few of the places that I can think of off the top of my head where the people serving/assisting/arresting you (as the case may be) tend to be in an elevated position and or location... usually with a much higher than normal counter hight. And not to mention... that Genius bar you have in the photo clearly has a location (all be it was filled with OS X discs) that would be wheelchair friendly... something that none of the locations I listed above have.

I hope they are going to be focusing on something else if they plan on winning...

Dave
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post #7 of 110
i'm handicapped myself and i always look out for stuff like this.

i've been to a couple of apple stores and i have to say that i was pleased with the accessibility.

but from a wheelchair perspective things look very different and the worst is to have to ask for help.

the genius bar should have a little section with a lower desk so the mac genius can sit down and get on the same eye level as the handicapped person. that would be a good solution.

as with the desks i always thought they're low enough to be accessible by wheelchair. if that's not the case another solution or height has to be implemented.

i'm always happy to be in the US since most infrastructure is designed with all people in mind, not just the ones on 2 feet and no handicap.

in europe it's much worse and most stores or restaurants don't have anything accessible to wheelchairs. very sad... people in a wheelchair have to ask for help for everything...
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post #8 of 110
Now watch. Apple will move everything forward (on the counters) and move all their products to lower shelves and then the "Tall People's Coalition" will sue them for discriminating against tall people. Now, I'm not saying that Apple is right in this case (assuming that these stores really are "unfriendly" for disabled people)... but you can't please anyone. And in this day and age, when people aren't pleased - they sue.

But, I do know that California has building codes in place for accommodating the disabled. I doubt that any of their stores could be built (approved for permits and such) without having certain accessible locations in place. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
post #9 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by smokeonit View Post

i'm always happy to be in the US since most infrastructure is designed with all people in mind, not just the ones on 2 feet and no handicap. in europe it's much worse and most stores or restaurants don't have anything accessible to wheelchairs. very sad... people in a wheelchair have to ask for help for everything...

Wait... something where the US does right while europe is woefully inadequate and uncaring about?!?! That simply isn't possible... is it?!?!

Kidding... (sorta)

Dave
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post #10 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by meh 2 View Post

Sad if true.

Sadder still if contrived.

*taps tip of nose with finger*
post #11 of 110
Isn't to "unintentionally ignore" an oxymoron?"
post #12 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by AjayBot View Post

"...compensation for the emotional and physical losses caused by Apple's seemingly neglectful approach"

"...both women are less interested in punitive action and more in successfully pressing for the needed changes to the building's layout and employee policies..."

Sounds like a crock of shit to me.

Welcome to America: where laws are written for lawyers, by lawyers.

Personally, I'd say if you can't get into a store, don't go... but that's just me trying to impose my silly idea of "personal property rights" on others.

The ADA only serves to make these lawsuits more lucrative for the plaintiffs. If it weren't for the ADA, nobody would sue because it's FREAKING OBVIOUS you didn't suffer any real distress by not being able to enter a store.

If you have a moral problem with a business not having wheelchair ramps, PROTEST OUTSIDE. That'll get the ramps in place, punish the business in question via lost business, and do it all without paying some a-hole lawyer.

Christ, it's like we're a nation of children who have to call mommy government every time someone hurts our feelings.
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post #13 of 110
As an architect practicing in SF, all projects that I've been involved in that are accessible to the public has to be ADA compliant. ADA is as required as meeting code for fire / life safety. It can't be any different for the Apple Stores.

I've been to the Stockton store and granted I have not paid attention to accessibility issues (not the reason I'm in there, ya know?), so I am not going to to jump into Apple's side blindly and decry these two ladies complaint. BUT I just see it with a skeptical p.o.v. Granted that they may have had poor service i.e. snobby attitude - otoh, they even cited that at least ONE member of the staff went out of their way to make the card reader more readily accessible to one of the ladies. I've been the brunt of poor service attitudes at that store myself on occasion though. I guess I'll have to stop by that store now and see for myself if it's as the 2 ladies say it is. I'll add more on this at a later date.

I don't know. This lawsuit sounds a bit far fetched for the moment.
post #14 of 110
A total waste of important government resources, time, space, etc. My guess is it is two women who are probably in wheelchairs because they ate themselves into obesity, and have nothing better to do with their time. People who are truly handicapped adapt themselves to this unfair place we know as the real world.
post #15 of 110
I would side with these women if they had spoken to one on the many sales staff that float around the store offering assistance and received none. Or spoke to a manager and pointed out the inconvenience they were having and were dismissed. Does anyone know if they did so? Even non handicap persons need to ask for help when they can't find what they want or are not getting the right service. One trip and they launch a suit? Hopefully there is more to this story and it's not just another case of getting a piece of the Apple cash cow.
post #16 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by smokeytheperson View Post

A total waste of important government resources, time, space, etc. My guess is it is two women who are probably in wheelchairs because they ate themselves into obesity, and have nothing better to do with their time. People who are truly handicapped adapt themselves to this unfair place we know as the real world.

You got to be kidding? Regardless of HOW they got in their conditions they are disabled and deserve the respect of any other customer. Sound like a bigot to me.
post #17 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wally View Post

*taps tip of nose with finger*

WTF does that mean?

Anyway, I really don't see the problem. The counter isn't THAT high, and wheelchair riders generally don't ride THAT low that you aren't seen.

For the other parts of the complaint, I don't know.

Also, making negative assumptions as to how a person became handicapped with as little information as this would be the mark of an asshole.
post #18 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by kerryb View Post

You got to be kidding? Regardless of HOW they got in their conditions they are disabled and deserve the respect of any other customer. Sound like a bigot to me.

Not a bigot, studied diversity intensively in college, only pointing out the silly idea that so many people hold that the world owes them something. As pointed out in other replies, the building would not have been given an occupancy permit if it did not comply with ADA standards.
post #19 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by smokeytheperson View Post

A total waste of important government resources, time, space, etc. My guess is it is two women who are probably in wheelchairs because they ate themselves into obesity, and have nothing better to do with their time. People who are truly handicapped adapt themselves to this unfair place we know as the real world.

I'm curious about your real world experiences as a retarded person. How have you been able to adapt?
post #20 of 110
To obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (CO), the store would have to be in full compliance with State/Fed laws as it relates to the ADA. Apple might not have gone above & beyond to accommodate those with disabilities but there are so many forms of disabilities that there is no way to accommodate each & every one of them.

This will either be settled by Apple very quickly to eliminate unwanted negative press or the the Judge will toss this one. These individuals are obviously not holding other businesses to the same standard/expectation.
post #21 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by kerryb View Post

You got to be kidding? Regardless of HOW they got in their conditions they are disabled and deserve the respect of any other customer. Sound like a bigot to me.

Actually, if they did eat themselves into that wheelchair, I'd say they don't deserve any respect.

Obesity is A CURABLE DISEASE. All you have to do is not eat so much. Even if your thyroid is one of the killer floating orbs from the Phantasm movies, you STILL wont be a big fatty if you simply stop eating so much.

It's a personal choice to be that big (or rather, to do the things that cause it). It's not like you just wake up one day and you're a blimp, either, you have to work at it. They did it to themselves.

I have empathy for those who are obese, but I've no sympathy for their condition. I don't go out of my way to disrupt their lives, but I'm not disrupting mine to accommodate them.

But all this is moot anyway, plus we don't even know if obesity is the cause of their disability (though statistically, it probably is). See my previous post.
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post #22 of 110
Don't know about the latest "wood" designed genius bars, but when I worked for a year as an MG, we had the original "curvy", all-white, tapered bar - seamlessly blended into the left side was a wheelchair-height slide out desktop, so someone at a seated level could pull right up like you would at a desk. Saw it used once in my entire time there.

Still, in the picture in the article, it seems there is a desk height section connected to the GB - even though they have some products perched on it - I would imaging that would be where wheelchairs could set up comfortably.

And as the other poster indicated, the overall design, including accessibility requirements, would have had to been approved by the city. Sue the city if you don't think the standards are right, not a company who legally abides by the standards

But it makes such good press to sue Apple, doesn't it?
post #23 of 110
the last 3 times I've been in an apple store I've had the clerk ring me up right on the floor with one of their little portable terminals. Why the staff didn't use those I can't say.
post #24 of 110
Is that crack I see
post #25 of 110
The words "accessible" and "convenient" are two different things. ADA requires that any place where the public goes be "accessible," however that doesn't mean that there have to be elevators and ramps everywhere with nothing more than 5 feet above the ground.

For example, the mall closest to me (Independence Center, for those here in the KC metro) is a three level facility. It's a big, open place. For the general mall concources, the only way for a wheelchair-bound person to travel between the top two floors is to use ONE elevator available in the mall or travel to an anchor store (Macy's, Dillard's, or Sears) and use their elevator.

Can you get there from here? Yes, because it's accessible. Is it easy to do? No, because it's not convenient.

From what I saw in the picture, the Genius Bar is accessible with the lower section in the foreground. To reach things high up (which these ladies would need to do in any retail store), they should ask for help. The only issue I see is the height of the elevator buttons. If they are too high then that should be fixed, however the ladies could still ask for assistance in pushing them.
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post #26 of 110
When you're making money, lawyers want a piece of it.

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post #27 of 110
Being unintentionally ignored is not just a handicap thing. Sometimes it's like waiting to be picked to go into Studio 54.
post #28 of 110
You know what? Being confined to a wheelchair sucks. No doubt about it. But that's no reason to blame Apple. Get over it!
post #29 of 110
All the Apple stores are new and so would the elevators. I can't image an elevator manufacturer selling an non ADA compliante elevator. Not in last 7 years
post #30 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by AjayBot View Post

Now if they had gone maybe 3-5 times, each time noticing the issues, and each time informing the manager, then yes, Apple needs to step in..

Sorry, but no. Its not up to the customer to return time after time and beg for compliance with the law each time.
I've spent a lot of time in the SF store, I think Apple needs to get its act together fast. This is a place where Steve's 'style sense' is going to bite him in the ass.

SF tolerates a lot of things, but this isn't one of them.
post #31 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by smokeonit View Post

in europe it's much worse and most stores or restaurants don't have anything accessible to wheelchairs. very sad... people in a wheelchair have to ask for help for everything...

I don't know about the rest of Europe but the UK has had the Disability Discrimination Act since 1995. Most public buildings have wheelchair access even though we've much older buildings than the USA, not that that affects any Apple store.

IIRC the lift in the Regent Street store doesn't have ANY buttons, which made me chuckle somewhat.
post #32 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

WTF does that mean?

It's a reference to a charade gesture meaning: correct. Also where the phrase "right on the nose" comes from. I was implying my agreement with meh 2's statement that: "Sad if true. Sadder still if contrived."
post #33 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by cameronj View Post

Isn't to "intentionally ignore" an oxymoron?"

Uh, no. Since 'ignore' is a a choice, its more 'redundant'.
post #34 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by timsit View Post

Is that crack I see

could be a thong.
post #35 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by cameronj View Post

Isn't to "intentionally ignore" an oxymoron?"

No, because "to ignore" doesn't necessarily have anything to do with "ignorance." One could choose to ignore someone as an insult, for example.
post #36 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by smokeytheperson View Post

...only pointing out the silly idea that so many people hold that the world owes them something.

Aah... the song of the entitled. Its so easy to accuse people of expecting a handout when your good life has been handed to you on a platter. (And don't claim it wasn't. If you're born healthy, you've already got a leg up.)

I love those who chant 'equality of opportunity, not results', and then make sure some don't have the same opportunity due to education, health, ad nauseum.
post #37 of 110
What a load of crap. Here is another classic example of some a$$hole trying to cash in on Apple. I bet the other 10 stores they went to that day had counters out of reach too. I live in an area that has one of the top largest malls in the US, and I dont think there is a single store there that has "handicap accessible" counters. All the counters are normal standing height.

Sorry you're handicapped. You cant expect the whole world to conform to just you. Granted, ramps and wide accesses to bathrooms and buildings are a must. You must admit, once you start complaining about product and counter heights, youre getting a little out of hand.

I hope this case and those two ladies get thrown out of court. They obviously have an axe to grind with the whole world, and are using Apple as a forum for their own political agenda.

Go after Apple, or the cell phone case kiosk guy? Who do you think?
post #38 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by AjayBot View Post

Lawsuits are for people who are having issues with right and wrong. Not for people trying to get results after only ONE trip to a store. Now if they had gone maybe 3-5 times, each time noticing the issues, and each time informing the manager, then yes, Apple needs to step in and replace the manager with a competent one. But from what I've read, this is an issue that could have been taken care of with the manager instead of wasting even more of taxpayers money.

Did you even bother to rtfa? It was more than just one time.

And how is it up to the manager? Did the manager design the store? No, Apple designed the store, and obviously these ladies feel that design did not meet federal and state law.
post #39 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by krye View Post


Sorry you're handicapped. You cant expect the whole world to conform to just you. Granted, ramps and wide accesses to bathrooms and buildings are a must. You must admit, once you start complaining about product and counter heights, youre getting a little out of hand.

I hope this case and those two ladies get thrown out of court. They obviously have an axe to grind with the whole world, and are using Apple as a forum for their own political agenda.

I agree. I remember about 7 months ago I was in a RadioShack store (GASP). They were resetting the stores nationwide to lower opened products.

I noticed that the store manager was in a wheel chair and was re-arranging the shelves. I thought to myself, that's nice RadioShack does not discriminate. While I was watching the store manager he stood up and walked around the store.

I asked a young lady working there what the manager was trying to pull. She said that all the stores had to move anything that was out of the box, for demo purposes, down to the lowest shelves and they had to be reachable to people in wheelchairs. They even had to rent a wheelchair to make sure they complied.

It was nuts. I looked around and almost everything that was open was just above my knees.

I don't think it went over too well, as of my last visit, things seemed to have been re-arranged better. The store didn't look like it was set up for 3 foot toddlers anymore.

I'm all for equal rights/access, but special rights/access for a handful of people that makes for inconveniences for the vast majority of people just makes me furious.
post #40 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by britwithgoodteeth View Post

I'm curious about your real world experiences as a retarded person. How have you been able to adapt?



I love it when a thread evolves through various topics, say from reasonable access for persons with disabilities, then to obesity (for some unknown reason), and then into questioning the level of retardation in another poster. For seasoning, you even get a small dose of "what's the meaning of the word 'ignore'?"

Or maybe that's 'devolves'.

It's entertaining either way!
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Journalism is publishing what someone doesn't want us to know; the rest is propaganda.
-Horacio Verbitsky (el perro), journalist (b. 1942)
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