Accessibility FAIL: Ross Park Mall

So this morning was the grand opening of a brand new Apple Store at Ross Park Mall, which is about ten minutes from our house. The whole family being devotees of the Great Fruit, we trooped out there early this morning to get in line.

17th in line, 90 minutes to go until opening. Feeling my back starting to twinge, I sat down on the floor. A minute or two later, mall security guards came over and told me I had to stand. Even when we explained that I had a back injury and couldn’t stand for very long, they cited “safety issues” and said again, I had to stand. Since I didn’t feel like getting into an argument (and possibly getting all three of us kicked out), Aiden and I left.

Safety issues, my reasonably shapely ass.

For those not versed in disability issues: this sort of thing is illegal. ILLEGAL. If I cannot stand in line because of a disability, they are required to make reasonable accomodations. If they were that dead set against having me sit on the floor, they could have brought me a folding chair; but they are not allowed to kick someone out of line for being disabled.

I might add that not only were there no benches on line, there were no benches anywhere in sight. Sure, I could have brought a folding chair, if I’d known ahead of time, but honestly, carrying the chair would have been almost as difficult as standing in line! The point is, if they’re offering an opportunity, experience, whatever to the public, they’re required to allow people with disabilities access without placing extra burdens upon them to do so. I don’t care if it makes their crowd control more difficult.

I should make it very clear that this was not in any way Apple’s fault – their authority stopped at the store doors. When Andrei told the store manager what had happened, he got a profuse apology, extra tshirts for me and Aiden, and they also had a discussion with the security guards and the mall service people. So yay for Apple. And maybe the mall will do things differently next time. But I’m not holding my breath.

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9 thoughts on “Accessibility FAIL: Ross Park Mall

  1. While I understand your issue, I do not agree at all that the mall is responsible to accommodate you in this kind of situation. If you know you have an issue with standing for periods of time, it seems to me that you would bring your own folding chair, seat, campstool, electric scooter, something, in anticipation of your back acting up. That is a reasonable expectation to be made of the person with the back problem, who is choosing to queue up in line for what can be expected to be a long wait. That, or go with another adult who can wait in line while you sit on a bench in a mall. I have never, ever seen a mall that did not have some kind of seating, somewhere in it. When the doors open, your friend can call you on your cell and let you know, if you can’t see the line from where you are sitting. Many malls also have loaner or rental wheelchairs, so making prior arrangements by checking this out or being responsible for yourself would have eliminated your problem.

    Sitting on the ground is most certainly be a ‘safety issue’, in the event that the doors open and the crowd rushes and tramples people sitting on the ground.

    If a person in line suddenly feels faint or is overcome, that might be a different situation. . . and even then I am not sure why it would be the responsibility of the mall or the store to provide special seating. But especially in the case of someone who knows they have a physical condition that makes standing for long periods a problem, why they would not make their own accommodations is beyond me. There is a huge difference in expecting ADA accommodations for providing curbcuts, automatic doors, etc. if one is in a wheelchair, versus someone not wanting to bring a folding stool for a long wait. Furthermore, the wait for the store to open is not ‘an experience’ they are ‘offering to the public’; the people forming the line are choosing to do this to increase their advantage. The point is, if someone has a ‘disabililty’ it is up to them to engage in reasonable ‘self help’, too.

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  2. I am not quite with you Nancy, but I can see your concern. I have seen similar situations where folding chairs were brought, and security would go on about no chairs, citing that the chairs would present a safety issue. And not everyone can afford scooters or wheelchairs… more and more places are charging as much as they can on wheelchair rentals. Just over a week ago, my family went to Kennywood as a group, as part of a fun and therapy session… many who went do not do well in social situations, and some of us even have anxiety attacks of varying degrees, and so… a valid outing. But walking from the front gate back to the pavilion near the kids section took us nearly 30 mins, and we were pushing it… it was not the crowds, but my wife’s inability to walk distances well, and our inability to rent a wheelchair.

    Now… regarding the offering the experience vs increasing advantage… consider this… the mall was by definition and in fact open to the public at this point. Many malls open to the public before the stores even open, to allow things like people walking for exercise, or folks to reach a store before it opens. And having been to RPM on rare occasions, I must say that my memory is that they have way too little seating compared with most malls of my experience (in numerous cities of varying sizes). But even had there been benches, I know of many places which actively discourage someone holding a place in line, declaring it to be another form of cutting the line, and take steps against it.

    Oh… and in the “rush/trample” deal… a wheel chair or scooter is not going to be much different. In some situations, even on your feet is not going to make a difference. If there is fear of that sort of thing, then security or some other party needs to be present to control the rate of flow of people.

    So, in this case, it is not as clear cut as it may originally seem.

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  3. Actually, many of my comments are based on my personal experience. I have a permanent disability that prevents me from standing for long periods of time, and I have faced many of these situations myself. If the ‘store’ is a restaraunt, they are required to have handicapped seating of some sort because their business is based around seating; that is logical. So it depends largely on the type of business it is. As part of “owning” my disability, I am selective about what I do and how I can provide for myself, firstly. Number one, why would I CHOOSE to go stand in a line for 90 minutes if I don’t have the physical ability to do so, and am unwilling to bring a folding stool or arrange with other adults with me to do the waiting on line? I have NEVER had an issue with anyone holding my place in line; I join the line in the beginning, talk to those infront and behind us, then let them know I need to sit down. End of issue. I have a small camp stool; if I can’t carry it, my husband or another adult does willingly. I have also toted it in a baby stroller. Be creative. Get a note from your dr. about your need to have a chair, and carry that note with you. I have done this too, and it works. This is the issue of ‘self help’ i am referring to. One has to get past any embarassment or issues one may have about their disability, and take what you need to be comfortable and INDEPENDENT, depending on the situation. If one still has issues about their disabilty, then that will make them unwilling to “look different” by bringing a stool. Again, part of “owning” your disability, and not expecting unreasonable accommodations for poor choices you are making to begin with.

    On the “offering an experience” vs “increasing advantage”. . . two completely different things in this situation. Yes, the mall was open to the public; however the Apple store was not yet open. Choosing to go stand on line 90 minutes ahead of the store opening is based on an attempt to increase your advantage in getting into the store ahead of others. If one merely waited till later in the day, or go the next day or so, one could just walk right in and have to wait for 90 min just to get into the Apple store. Again, making wiser choices in support of your disability.

    The ‘rush/trample’ issue is very real, and a valid concern of the mall security. Someone sitting on the ground who can’t get up fast enough can be killed if the crowd is big enough. Again, something one should consider in regards to their disability, before they even sit down. And again, it goes back to doing your homework, finding out about the benches at the mall, thinking rationally about what you can physically handle, doing what you can to accommodate your disability yourself, and not laying it in the laps of others to provide for you at every turn. YOU have some responsibility for yourself in every situation, disability or not. It is not reasonable to begin with to choose to go early to wait inline for 90 minutes, standing, when you know you cannot physically accomplish that — and to refuse to bring anything to help yourself — but to expect the mall or store to rush a chair to you when your back starts to hurt like you expected it to. There are walkers with a built-in seat, even walking canes that have a flip-down seat on them, how much more convenient can it get?

    When one has a disability, like it or not, one has to do more planning and thinking about the activities one chooses to partake in, even if one doesn’t want to adapt to doing that. It is not reasonable to expect that everyone provide for you everywhere you go. ADA rules are about ASSISTING in CERTAIN SITUATIONS. You need to read these and understand the differences and the intent behind behind them. They are not a substitute for taking care of oneself.

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  4. Correction:
    should read:
    “If one merely waited till later in the day, or go the next day or so, one could just walk right in and NOT have to wait for 90 min just to get into the Apple store.”

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  5. But Nancy, the OP was willing to sit down on the floor. She didn’t know that this was considered “unsafe” (a judgment I don’t understand at all). I assume that’s why she didn’t bring something to sit on. She was being creative and flexible by being willing to sit on the floor, they’re the ones who were inflexible.

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  6. sorry I missed the “rush/trample” thing. I don’t think that the solution to this danger is to refuse to let people sit down. A very short person or a person who is unsteady on their feet could probably get trampled. A person in a folding chair could get knocked out of their chair. And people who are steady, of average height, and standing up have been trampled.

    Although I may be overreacting, I just feel that refusing to let people sit on the floor tends to be more about trying to get people to behave in a normative way, and less really about safety. I think it affects people with many kinds of disabilities.

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  7. Hello from another Pittsburgher, linked here from FWD/Forward.

    It seems like Nancy here is arguing largely for the status quo. If you’re too disabled to do things you’d like to do, and there are no accommodations made by the “authority” in charge, then you should just not stay home. Trying to accommodate yourself, even temporarily, is a bad thing. If someone can make any sort of argument against it, no matter how specious (and yes, the “safety” argument is specious on its face in this situation) it is incumbent upon the person with disabilities to conform to a situation that is inaccessible and not cause a problem to temporarily able-bodied people who claim to be inconvenienced by the PWD just attempting to go about their daily life.

    I call hogwash.

    If you need to sit down and there isn’t anywhere to sit, you sit on the ground. If it’s allegedly “not safe” for you to sit on the ground, then the authority in charge, should be protecting you from anyone who might trip on you or stampede over you, or whatever other cockamamie notion they have of what makes a person on the floor an unsafe thing, until you’re able to stand back up.

    As for the ADA, it provides laws and guidelines toward improved and minimum standards of accessibility in public places. It isn’t everything that must be done or can be done. And it certainly has no bearing on individual interactions, where someone has the discretion to provide something as basic as allowing a person to stop, to rest, to sit without a hassle.

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  8. I have chronic vertigo, meaning that it’s difficult for me to bend over or view things above my eye level. I remember once crouching down (so my head would stay level) to look at books on the bottom shelf of a display in a bookshop, only to have the manager run over, going bright red and spitting with rage (literally, some went on my shirt) to throw me out. I pointed out that I was a customer who bought books from them every week and was trying to view their rather inaccessible shelf, but apparently this was not acceptable. When he started waving his fists, I left. I never went back. The shop went broke five years later, and I have to say it’s the only time I would ever laugh at a bookshop closing.

    There was no-one else in that area of the shop. I was in no possible sense a danger to anyone. But I was behaving “strangely” and thus I was threatening to this man’s sense of control. I suspect that’s exactly what happened here.

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  9. Actually, I know what this was really about. See, I was homeless for three years.

    You say there were no benches at all? Yeah, this is one of those things public places have been doing over the last few years. They’re getting this “brilliant” idea that if they don’t provide anywhere to sit, then homeless people won’t come in and no one will have to look at us.

    This was in no way a “safety issue”. You weren’t allowed to sit on the ground because you would have looked homeless and they can’t have that.

    Which also sucks because I also have disabilities where I can’t stand up for long periods of time. In this rush to push homeless people out of the public sightline, all sorts of other people are being punished right along with us. With nowhere to sit, how are elderly people, families with small children, and others who need to stop randomly supposed to stay there longer?

    Oh, right. They’re supposed to be good customers and sit in a store where they buy something.

    Yeah, this was about an intersection of oppressions moment. They didn’t care about your disability, just that someone didn’t look homeless by sitting on the ground. That’s going on out here in Seattle now too. Most of the bus stops don’t even have benches anymore.

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