Advocate In Your Community
Issue: The holidays are here, and you decide to go on a shopping trip with your friend who uses a wheelchair. When you get to your favorite store, you realize you can barely get down the aisles because they are blocked with merchandise and displays. Your friend is afraid her wheelchair will get stuck, won’t risk an attempt, and you decide to shop elsewhere.
What Do You Do?/What Can You Do?
Solution: An accessible route, at least 36 inches wide, is required by both the Georgia Building Code and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A reduced aisle width may also pose a fire safety concern. The Rules and Regulations of the Georgia Safety Fire Commissioner Chapter 120-3-20-.49 (10), states “Accessible routes serving any accessible space or element shall also serve as a means of egress for emergencies or connect to an accessible area of rescue assistance.” Please note: A temporary obstruction of an aisle, for the purpose of restocking a shelf, is allowed.
Your first step in solving the problem is to talk to the store manager to explain that when merchandise or displays block the aisles, customers with disabilities, as well as customers pushing baby strollers, etc., may have great difficulty maneuvering throughout the store. Making the store manager aware of requirements for accessible routes and the fire safety concerns caused by improperly placed merchandise or displays can assist in (1) raising awareness of the needs of people with mobility impairments; (2) attracting and keeping customers; and (3) avoiding having to resolve the issue through a more formal complaint process. If the store manager does not respond positively, contacting the district manager for chain department stores, for example, may solve the problem.
If your educational efforts don’t work, notify your local fire department of this problem. They have the authority and responsibility to have those aisles cleared of any obstructions which are in violation of the Fire Code. If your fire department does not act, contact your local town, city or county code compliance or building department.
Resources: To read an analysis of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design and the 1997 Georgia Accessibility Code go to: http://web01.spo.ga.gov/ADA/GA%20Accessibility%20Code%20Comparison_rev%2004-11%20(2).htm
The see the Georgia standards for accessible design go to: http://www.gainsurance.org/Externalresources/Documents/FireMarshal%20-%20Rules%20and%20Regulations/120-3-20%20Accessibility.pdf
For more information, contact the Georgia Advocacy Office at 800-537-2329 (Voice/TTY)