Apple accused of short-shrifting disabled retail shoppers

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
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.
«13456

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 109
    parkyparky Posts: 383member
    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
  • Reply 2 of 109
    kasperkasper Posts: 940member, administrator
    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.



    K
  • Reply 3 of 109
    meh 2meh 2 Posts: 149member
    Sad if true.



    Sadder still if contrived.
  • Reply 4 of 109
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 109
    davegeedavegee Posts: 2,765member
    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
  • Reply 6 of 109
    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...
  • Reply 7 of 109
    wallywally Posts: 211member
    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.

  • Reply 8 of 109
    davegeedavegee Posts: 2,765member
    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
  • Reply 9 of 109
    wallywally Posts: 211member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by meh 2 View Post


    Sad if true.



    Sadder still if contrived.



    *taps tip of nose with finger*
  • Reply 10 of 109
    cameronjcameronj Posts: 2,357member
    Isn't to "unintentionally ignore" an oxymoron?"
  • Reply 11 of 109
    slugheadslughead Posts: 1,169member
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 109
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 109
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 109
    kerrybkerryb Posts: 270member
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 109
    kerrybkerryb Posts: 270member
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 109
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 109
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 109
    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?
  • Reply 19 of 109
    mobirdmobird Posts: 72member
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 109
    slugheadslughead Posts: 1,169member
    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.
Sign In or Register to comment.