Accord Reached in Disabled Access Lawsuit

February 16, 2009

The attorneys for two disabled Oakland (Calif.) women have reached a settlement with Apple Inc. over their lawsuit alleging the San Francisco store is not accessible to persons in wheelchairs. Apple denied any liability for the women’s claims, but did agree to a three-page list of changes to the store. Both sides agreed to a separate, confidential agreement on damages, attorney fees and other expenses. Jana Overbo and Nicole Brown-Booker filed the lawsuit in August, 2007 after they visited the store and found the aisles too narrow to navigate, merchandise too high to reach, and a Genius Bar staff that did not accommodate them. In the settlement signed last Friday, Apple agreed to adjust the front door opening pressure, install a corridor handrail, make changes to the first-floor public restroom, and install Braille signage adjacent to each elevator landing. The company will also rearrange the theater seating to be compliant with federal accessibility laws, and will make children’s software at the “kids” table available at wheelchair accessible counters when requested. Apple also agreed to provide employee training on aisle accessibility and to offering assistance to wheelchair-bound customers.

The agreement covers only changes at the San Francisco Apple store, and not other locations in the chain. However, certain “outreach” training will be given to all of Apple’s current and future retail store employees.

In the Consent Decree and Proposed Order filed in U.S. District Court on February 13th, both sides said they had entered into the agreement, “in order to avoid the costs, expense and uncertainty of protracted litigation.” Apple agreed to submit permit applications to the city for all the “corrective work” by March 15, 2009, and will then begin actual work on the remedies within 30 days of receiving approval. They will complete the construction within 30 days of starting, the agreement states.

At the Genius Bar, Apple will provide mandatory training, “regarding the removal of the desktop computer monitors located on the accessible tables at either end of the Genius Bar when serving a wheelchair using customer.” Employees will also “offer to relocate the desktop monitors when serving a wheelchair using customer at the accessible tales.”

San Francisco employee training will be completed by June 30, 2009, while the training of all other store employees will be finished by December 31, 2009, the company agreed, with a program put in place to also train future employees.

The company also agreed to add language to its Web site “Accessibility” page to state, “As part of our commitment to accessibility, our Retail Associates are specially trained to serve customers with disabilities. Please ask an Associate for assistance if you have difficulty viewing a product when you visit an Apple Retail Store. They will be happy to assist you by moving display products to more accessible locations is possible.”

The lawsuit also slipped in one other complaint from the woman—Apple will train store employees to “monitor the toilet paper dispenser in the bathroom in the Apple Retail Store and insure that an adequate supply of toilet paper is placed in the upper dispenser.”

Although the agreement is still considered a “proposed” order, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston is expected to sign the agreement. Update: Judge Illston signed the order on February 17, 2009, ending the lawsuit.

Download (pdf) the full Consent Decree and Proposed Order here.

Download (pdf) the original lawsuit complaint here.

As a result of the ADA lawsuit settlement, Apple changed the second-floor theater seating at the San Francisco store. They removed five seats, installed railings and leveled off the sloped floor to allow wheelchair access.

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