belk-crowded-aisleMom and I tried to do some holiday shopping over the weekend and encountered situations like the one in the photo (in more than one store). She gets claustrophobic in these places and I get angry. I mean, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was supposed to make public places accessible to everyone, including people like our loved ones who are in wheelchairs or scooters, or use walkers. So how are stores getting away with aisles and shelves so crowded with merchandise they’re inaccessible (and claustrophobic)?

The ADA regulations say that accessible routes through stores must be at least 36 inches wide, and that nothing should protrude into that space. Trust me: The aisles you see in the picture are not 36 inches wide.

So what’s the deal? It turns out there’s a loophole in the regulations. A store isn’t required to remove shelves (to make the aisles at least 36 inches wide) if doing so would result in a “significant loss of selling space that would have an adverse effect on its business.” (See U.S. Department of Justice, Americans with Disabilities Act, https://www.ada.gov/adata1.htm, accessed Aug. 22, 2016.)

And there you have it. Selling space is more important than the millions of Americans who would like to go shopping but can’t because they can’t reach the merchandise they want to buy. Yes, another ADA document says that stores must provide clerks to help disabled customers access merchandise, but when was the last time you found a store clerk without wandering and looking for one?

Sigh. Rant over. Thank you!