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NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:
July 30, 2007 Law Firm of James Sturdevant:
Monique Olivier – (415) 477-2410
DRA:
Sid Wolinsky - (510) 665-8644
 

CALIFORNIA COURT GRANTS UNPRECEDENTED VICTORY TO CONSUMERS WITH DISABILITIES

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – In a major victory for disabled consumers which is expected to have broad implications for retailers across the State, the California Court of Appeal yesterday ruled that blocking aisle with removable fixtures by Mervyn’s department stores without providing effective means for making merchandise available discriminated against people with disabilities.

The unanimous decision of the First District Court of Appeal, written by Justice Sepulveda, clarifies and expands the rights of people with disabilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act and California’s Unrah Civil Rights Act and its Disabled Persons Act. The Court reversed the trial court’s judgment and instructed the trial court to fashion relief for disabled customers

“The decision recognizes the fundamental right of persons with disabilities to be free from discrimination in all places of public accommodation,” said Monique Olivier of The Sturdevant Law Firm in San Francisco, counsel for plaintiff Californians for Disability Rights (CDR), a statewide non profit advocacy group for physically disabled Californians. She added, “The court has now ruled that movable fixtures must be treated as architectural barriers. This means that all stores built since 1993 (the date the ADA became law) must strictly comply with access standards for new buildings and must provide accessible aisles in all shopping areas.”

Co-counsel Sid Wolinsky, Director of Litigation of Berkeley-based Disability Rights Advocates, observed, “This should be a wake-up call to all retailers as we approach the back-to-school shopping season. This is an important and far reaching victory for disabled consumers and seniors, and the effect of the Court’s order applies to retailers throughout the State. Disabled men and women want to shop just like everyone else. They are entitled to do so, and they can be an important part of a retailer’s customer base.”

During the month-long trial, witnesses had testified that fixtures in Mervyn’s stores were jammed so close together that not only were disabled people unable to shop, but they often snagged their wheelchairs and walkers on fixtures and merchandise.

John Lonberg, President of Californians for Disability Rights, said: “We are pleased that the appellate court has vindicated our position. Retailers who clog aisles should be ashamed. They kept disabled men and women out as effectively as if they had posted a sign saying ‘No wheelchairs welcome here.”

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