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Wal-Mart faces discrimination claim over check-out aisles

Americans would have to go quite a ways to find someone who hasn't heard of Wal-Mart. The general store with small beginnings has grown to a worldwide corporation, with over 3,000 "supercenters" across the country. Towns large and small have access to a wide variety of groceries and other goods through these discount stores, including approximately 20 locations in Denver alone. But Wal-Mart is not without detractors, and now it appears the corporation has crossed a line with a key segment of the American population: those suffering from a disability.

The problem appears to have stemmed from the location of credit card machines in the check-out aisles. The group that has brought the lawsuit, seeking class action status, claims that the location of these machines violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating against customers with disabilities because the machines are higher up from the ground. As a result, the lawsuit claims, people in wheelchairs or scooters, or others with similar disabilities, are required to stretch unreasonably to swipe their credit cards, or risk identity theft by having to orally read their credit card numbers to the Wal-Mart store associate.

The lawsuit also claims that Wal-Mart has thus far refused to make changes to the check-out aisles, or replace the machines with newer, more accessible technology.

Wal-Mart has initially refuted the allegations, stating through a spokesperson that the corporation's goal is to fully comply with the ADA.

The ADA is designed to protect people from discrimination based on a disability. Public spaces and businesses designated as places of "public accommodation" are required to be accessible to all types of people, including those with disabilities, and this can require certain modifications to existing structures. Most people are familiar by now with modifications such as wheelchair ramps - one type of accommodation. Familiar to comply with the requirements of the ADA can lead to lawsuits like the one against Wal-Mart.

Source: Reuters, "Wal-Mart sued by disabled over payment machine access," Jonathan Stempel, July 25, 2012

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