BERKELEY -- A local disability rights organization and two Bay Area women who use wheelchairs filed a federal class action lawsuit against Walmart Wednesday claiming many of its credit and debit card machines are physically out of reach and violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Berkeley-based Center for Independent Living, Janet Brown of Pittsburg and Lisa Kilgore of San Pablo are asking a judge to order Walmart to move the credit and debit machines so they can reach them. In the suit they also cite the California Disabled Persons Act and the California Unruh Civil Rights Act.
They are asking for unspecified damages and attorneys' fees.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California after a failed seven-year quest by advocates to get the store to move the machines, said Arlene Mayerson, an attorney with Berkeley-based Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, which represents the wheelchair users.
Yomi Wrong, executive director of the Center for Independent Living, said Walmart discriminates against wheelchair users like her because they must ask cashiers to key in debit card pin numbers or sign their names to credit card purchases, which "isn't something other people have to do."
"Walmart wants to be seen as America's store, and they claim to value their customers, but this is not dignified," said Wrong. "It is no way to treat someone who uses a wheelchair or scooter."
Walmart spokeswoman Ashley Hardie, reading from a prepared statement, said the company's goal is that all of its machines be "accessible within the regulations and guidelines of the ADA and California law."
"Walmart takes it seriously any time questions or allegations are raised concerning our ADA compliance," Hardie said. "We have a deep respect for all our associates and customers. And we are committed to serving those with disabilities."
Mayerson said her group last met with Walmart in April to persuade it to move the machines, but were told the store is technically in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and would not move the machines.
"We certainly don't think a retailer such as Walmart should be standing on some technicality when their shoppers are telling them 'we can't use the machines,'" Mayerson said. "If you're giving out your pin number, you are very susceptible to identify theft."
Mayerson said the group will eventually calculate a figure for damages after it determines how many people have joined the suit.