Boise store owner denies access to disabled woman
One Saturday in February, Mountain Home’s Annette McAlpin drove to Boise to find a dress.
“I went in and I spotted a dress on the back wall,” she said. “And I went to go maneuver my scooter so I could get back there and the gentleman that was behind the counter just hollered at me: ‘No! You can’t do that.’”
McAlpin suffers from a bone cancer in her right hip.
“I can only walk maybe 10, maybe 15 minutes,” she said.
She uses a mobility scooter to navigate around places like malls and grocery stores. McAlpin says when the clerk of that nameless Boise dress shop saw her maneuvering her scooter in his packed store, he told her to leave.
“‘There’s no room for you. You need to go,’” McAlpin recalled. “I was angry. I was way more upset at the way the gentleman had spoken to me.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires businesses remove temporary barriers – like dress racks – to allow access to people in wheelchairs, power-chairs and scooters.
To give an idea of the kind of obstacles present in an A.D.A.-compliant building, we strapped a camera to McAlpin’s scooter and asked her to cruise the mall. On a quiet Wednesday morning, seemingly every mall worker greeted McAlpin and then offered assistance with anything she might need. But we did find places where McAlpin’s scooter couldn’t go.
“Out there everything is different,” Idaho A.D.A. technical training consultant Dana Gover said. “It’s on a case-by-case basis.”
Gover’s been in a wheelchair since surviving a car accident when she was 18. At the Northwest A.D.A. Center of Idaho, she helps concerned businesses provide better service to the disabled.
“There’s no enforcement cops,” Gover said. “We don’t go out and [have] somebody over there looking at what you’re doing.”
Any construction - on new or old buildings - completed after the approval of the A.D.A. must pass an initial inspection. But after that, enforcement relies on the filing of complaints.
“People with disabilities basically enforce the law,” Gover said.
Gover’s traveled the state promoting A.D.A. compliance and says she finds most of Idaho very receptive to the needs of the disabled.
“People that I’ve found are more embarrassed that their business wasn’t accessible,” she said. “They just didn’t realize what they needed to do.”
McAlpin also said she’s not looking to punish or discipline. Instead, like Gover, she just wants to improve, helping both customers like her and the businesses they want to access.
“Disabled people have money to spend as well and they want to spend it in your store,” McAlpin said.