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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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick Toolan February 16, 2009 at 2322

Phew, that took a while eh? What a drawn out process. I have to wonder if the women had previously been making what were perceived to be excessive demands – excessive to the point that Apple woud actually want to take this stuff to court rather than work with customers to improve the store.

I’m surprised that many of these changes even need to be made – they all seem so reasonable and (dare I say it) obvious – that it’s somewhat disappointing that the changed state of the stores isn’t just the _normal_ state. As what I would call a ‘responsable retailer’, it seems an oversight Apple does not already have these accessibility modifications in place as standard practice.

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GelW February 17, 2009 at 0753

Rather than changing the whole world to suit wheelchair users how about changing wheelchairs? Wheelchairs with powered seat lifts have been available for a long time, why didn’t these ladies buy them? It would be more economical, use less resources, save the planet etc.

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filecat13 February 17, 2009 at 0846

That’s a lot of nice window-dressing there, but it doesn’t address the core issue of how much money these women tried to extort from Apple and how much they really got. It’s always about the money, and everyone knows it. They found a way to get some. If it were the principle, this would apply to every store, not just the one where they chose to make a scene in order to get some cash.

They basically sold out every wheelchair bound American who doesn’t go to that store, and they took the money for themselves instead. That’s very bad form. FAIL.

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Tom February 17, 2009 at 1158

I am an ADA certified building code official. My first question is: When did this store open? Were ADA laws the same as today’s regulations? It sounds like they will be designing to current statutes.

Also, why didn’t the code official granting the permit, and more importantly, the Accessibility Inspector catch these things prior to an Occupancy permit being issued? Something doesn’t sound right there.

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Craig February 17, 2009 at 1523

My daughter is seriously disabled and wheel chair bound. There is so much stuff she can not do. Should I sue God (or the church as it is Gods representative here on Earth)?
Yes life is not fair, and it sucks that some people have disabilities, but to use that to extort money, come on ladies.

Australia is moving the way of America with litigation. Yesterday the news headlines were about a lesbian couple who successfully sued because they got two babies instead of the requested one through IVF.

And here is the real killer: A park in our area has a liberty swing (this is a swing designed for wheel chairs), there was talk of it being closed down because a mother with an able bodied child was not aloud on this swing. She called it discrimination. Next to it are swings and a whole adventure playground that wheel chair bound kids can not use because of their disabilities.

There is a pretty famous story about a couple in a garden that were given everything except for one fruit. Were they satisfied?

Please excuse my rant as this sort of stuff makes my blood boil.

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Player_16 February 17, 2009 at 2125

@GelW – Powerseats. These type of chairs can be quite expensive. Where do you think they would get the cash? “I’ll just hop down to the Med Shop and buy one of those ‘Seat-Rising’ chairs, no problem”. There are other people in the world (to what they were thinking) as well as the US that still have the ‘old-fashioned chairs’ that you have to use your hands to scoot about in; you know, the ones with the BIG wheels in the back.

@filecat13 & Craig – Pity that you both did not READ the pdf’s – they’re not that big (click). They didn’t go in seeking money and the amount that they will get is just enough to pay for legal fees. They (being disabled) just wished to be treated with consideration for the condition that they’re in. It is VILE to accuse someone without knowing (reading) the PRESENTED facts.

The reason this went to court so it would be on record that they are committing themselves to the modifications required: sort of a just in case ‘real extortionist’ try to scam some cash out of them – the company ‘is’ making it right. I too find it odd that they were permitted to operate with these glaring imperfections.

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filecat13 February 18, 2009 at 0011

Player_16

You can throw around BIG CAPS words like VILE, but it doesn’t make your comments any more righteous, just more self-righteous. Perhaps you missed this:

“Both sides agreed to a separate, confidential agreement on damages, attorney fees and other expenses.”

That’s not in either PDF; it’s in the original article, so it’s hard to miss. As for the PRESENTED (oh, there’s that self-righteous tone again) facts, I’ve never considered attorney-filed complaints as facts. If they were facts, we wouldn’t need courts now would we? and consent decrees are structured to avoid admitting facts, so what was your criticism again?

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smokeonit February 18, 2009 at 0655

GelW: write them a check, it seems yo have the $$$/€€€ to spare!

how ingorant must one be to write a comment like that???

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smokeonit February 18, 2009 at 0656

Craig: don’t blame others for being proactive and trying to change stuff that CAN be changed!

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smokeonit February 18, 2009 at 0658

filecat13: it seems that if there weren’t people like the 2 ladies some changes would never get made… maybe we wouldn’t even have the ADA, which i as a european hugely admire!!!

disabled in the US have it so much better than in any EU country!!!

i hope this gives handicapped people the strength to fight for their right to an equal life… it’s not possible everywhere, but definitely in more places than now!!!

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smokeonit February 18, 2009 at 0701

and i encourage any non-disabled person to walk through their city imagining that the can’t cross stairs, can’t go on to sidewalks which have no lowered edges… all those “little
“details” add to a lot of problems in everyday life and i think it’s very important that people fight and if necessary sue to get things changed/done…

there’s many disabled people out there that do not have the strength/nerves to fight in court to change things…

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smokeonit February 18, 2009 at 0702

Player_16: i completely agree with your comment, well written;-)

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smokeonit February 18, 2009 at 0704

Patrick Toolan: i agree, the thing is that many details only come to min d when you sit in a wheel chair, or have other disabilities… just by reading some comments here one can imagine how hard it is to ask for changes….

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Player_16 February 18, 2009 at 0724

filecat13:

My criticism was at you (and Craig) accusing someone being an extortionist and not checking with what’s presented. I considered both of your comments really unjust and cheap. They could’ve went overboard with this by requesting someone like the ADA or someone similar like a previous post stated and milking it for all its worth; Apple being the whipping boy of lawsuits and such but they did not. They just pointed out what’s not right and tightened some screws a bit. The disabled already have enough on their plate just trying to get dressed for the day and such. They don’t want to have someone at their beckon call to do the most trivial things that ‘abled-bodied’ people take for granted. They just wish to be independent.

Well, at least YOU now read the pdf’s and then some. …Oh, am I being self-righteous again (if that’s what you want to call it)? I’ll admit my ‘personal’ fault; what about you?

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filecat13 February 18, 2009 at 0858

Player_16

You’re persistent, I’ll give you that. I read the PDFs before my first post, though it fits your ego to somehow assume I needed you to tell me to do that. Unless you’re disabled, I do not need your pious lecturing. I have advanced RSDS (reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, diagnosed 1991) and face challenges of independence and access everyday. These women were not interested in helping others; they simply made a public display of their alleged victimization and did the least good necessary to get the most for themselves.

As I wrote, they sold out every wheelchair bound American. Your lionization of them is unwarranted.

Plus, you need to make a logical separation here. My criticism of these women is not the same thing as defending Apple. Is there a point at which I disputed Apple’s responsibility? Nope, didn’t think so.

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Bob February 18, 2009 at 1409

Let’s hear it for the bottom 5th percentile, driving 95% of cost!

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Steve February 18, 2009 at 1802

This a bunch of BS! How did Apple get a building permit in CA. All drawing must be approved by an ADA Architect for permit. Handicapped people have great parking, what more do they want? Another STUPID law suit from those who can’t walk!

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smokeonit February 18, 2009 at 1806

@ Steve: 1st, it’s about a lot of small details that might even be overlooked by a very good architect…

2nd: ignorance is bliss… i think any handicapped citizen would change with you one the spot, their handicap transfered to you and you get the parking… “Handicapped people have great parking”, what an a*hoe you must be… as if they park there for fun and to have better parking… i hope you have great life…

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