Title III Assistance
Published – October, 2012
It’s the time of year when I do a lot of holiday shopping – at grocery stores, large department stores and shopping malls. While I don’t use a wheelchair often, I do get tired easily when I walk a lot. I notice that some places have wheelchairs that I can use but other places don’t. Does the Americans with Disabilities Act require stores to have a wheelchair available for people like me to use?
My wife has a disability that makes it difficult for her to dress herself. In the privacy of our home I help her with her clothes. But when we go shopping for her, I’m not sure what to do. I can’t go into the women’s dressing room with her. Does the ADA require the store to provide someone to help her try on clothes?
Dear Holiday Shopper and Husband Helper,
Both of these questions are about assistance in stores. A store has responsibilities under Title III of the ADA, which is called a “public accommodation” because it is a place that is open to the public and where money changes hands.
A Title III facility has to do many things for its customers with disabilities, like survey to see if there are any physical barriers to parking, getting into the store, getting around the store, providing effective communication to customers who have vision or hearing loss, making sure there are accessible emergency exits, etc.
But there are other things a store does not have to do. One of those is to provide “personal devices”. Wheelchairs falls under that category, as do eyeglasses, hearing aids, crutches, braces, or other mobility devices. There are stores that provide courtesy wheelchairs, but they are not required. Another service stores do not have to provide is “personal assistance”. That includes helping a person in or out of a vehicle, trying on clothes, or using a restroom. While it seems that it would be convenient having a store employee help this way, remember that they are rarely qualified to assist someone and could accidentally hurt the customer. If you do not have female friends or family members who can go with you two to the store and assist your wife, contact our office and we will help you look for a solution.