The Washington D.C.-based Equal Rights Center filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court October 21 against Kohl’s Corporation and Kohl’s Department Stores, arguing that the stores’ layout makes them inaccessible to people with wheelchairs or scooters.
“Individuals with disabilities have a right to accessible public accommodations under the law,” ERC Executive Director Melvina Ford said in a news release. “By denying shoppers with disabilities the ability to successfully navigate their stores, Kohl’s is participating in a practice of systematically denying equal access to individuals with disabilities.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires places of public accommodation built or altered after January 26, 1992 to do so “in such a manner that, to the maximum extent feasible, the altered portions of the facility are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.” Compliance is excused to the extent it is “structurally impracticable.”
Almost all of Kohl’s 1,146 stores were built or altered after this date.
Prior to filing the lawsuit, the ERC surveyed 41 of these locations in 13 states, finding accessibility violations in all of them.
As described in the lawsuit, Kohl’s stores are characterized by their wide main aisles and narrow side aisles, most of which are too narrow to be maneuvered by wheelchair users.
In its investigation, the ERC found that many of the stores have sales or service counters exceeding the maximum heights allowed by the Department of Justice’s architectural standards, in violation of the ADA. Inaccessibly small restrooms and fitting rooms were also prevalent.
Potential ADA violations also were found in the store’s parking lots, particularly in regard to inaccessibly narrow parkings spaces and a lack of slots for wheelchair accessible vans.
ERC first detailed its complaints to Kohl’s in a letter sent in December 2012. In addition to the ADA claims, the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, also includes claims under the New York Human Rights Law, since multiple of the stores surveyed are located in New York State.
The lawsuit, in addition to seeking to force Kohl’s to comply with the law, seeks damages for the six named plaintiffs.
Representing ERC in the lawsuit is the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, and Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd.
* Photo of a Kohl’s store, by Equal Rights Center, used with permission.