Abercrombie & Fitch was found by a judge to have failed in providing adequate facilities for the disabled, and will be forced to renovate hundreds of stores. The ruling stated that 250 Abercrombie & Fitch and subsidiary Hollister stores do not provide the appropriate access for limited access customers, as stipulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The New Albany, Ohio-based chain was taken to federal court in Colorado by the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, on behalf of customers that said they had trouble getting into stores and that sales countertops are too high to be used by a person in a wheelchair. Several separate complaints were turned into a class action lawsuit targeting 248 Hollister stores across the country that featured faux-porch steps at the entrance, essentially preventing limited-access customers from entering.
Attorneys for Abercrombie & Fitch say that when the retail outlets were constructed, they were in full compliance with all construction standards, and that standards have since evolved.
The judge said that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not allow the customers behind the lawsuit to receive any compensation, but that he will order the stores in question to fix the problems according to current standards.
Rob Sirowitz, who filed one of the initial complaints that led to the lawsuit, told the Denver Post that he struggled to get into a Hollister store, and when he finally did, he could not get through an aisle because there was too much merchandise. “I can get into the store 10 to 15 feet and then I have to turn around and leave,” he said.
Anita Hansen, who also filed a complaint against the company, said that being in one of the company’s stores made her feel more aware of her handicap. “I don’t feel I have a disability when I shop somewhere else because I don’t need help to get around.”
A statement on the ruling from a Hollister spokesperson said, “We are surprised by the Judge’s decision that the Hollister entrances are not compliant with the ADA. We’ve maintained throughout the litigation, and continue to maintain, that the stores comply with ADA and allow access to all patrons.”
Abercrombie & Fitch is no stranger to controversy. The clothing line aggressively courts teens and young adults that deem themselves “cool,” often at the exclusion of all others. Abercrombie & Fitch has been criticized for refusing to offer their clothes in larger sizes, and several discrimination lawsuits have been filed against the company regarding their hiring practices.