Few major chain corporations out there actually listen to the customer. A year ago, I emailed some companies about their lack of bike racks
. Rather than receive relevant replies about racks, I was told I was not being considered for a job. Seriously.
Earlier this year, I again sent along an email to CVS’s corporate HQ, but this time about a more serious matter: an apparent ADA violation. Unlike bike racks, an ADA violation can result in a swift lawsuit.
CVS listened; they replied by email, contacted me by phone, replied to my follow-up, and actually did some work on the ground to fix the problem.
But by “fix,” I mean “make so much worse”
CVS has recently opened a brand new location in the “Fancher Creek” development, a transit-oriented village for south Fresno in the works for over a decade, which had been stalled since the housing bubble broke. CVS’s pop up like weeds in the Central Valley, so the only reason I paid it any attention (see bottom of that post) was because the area was supposed to be under some kind of walking, biking and transit master plan. I was interested to see if CVS did ANYTHING to cater to the transit village that is supposed to pop up around them, rather then dropping in the same store they’d built at every other intersection in town.
Side note: No transit serves this transit-oriented village.
During my walking tour, I noted that this brand new development, built on perfectly flat land, on what used to be an empty lot violated the “equal access” bit of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The law, which has affected commercial properties since 1992, has some exceptions for historic structures and the like, but obviously this brand new development wasn’t excused from compliance.
Basically, for commercial spaces, ADA has two portions:
The very well defined technical stuff, such as max ramp slope, min aisle width, sign height, availability of railings, turning areas, etc etc. The kind of stuff you can go out with a ruler and note if the facility complies or does not. As you can imagine, because a hard and clear series of rules are set out, it’s easy to comply, for both companies and contractors.
Note: If you’ve seen what appears to be a perfectly fine sidewalk ramp be ripped up and replaced with what appears to be the exact same thing, it’s due to a violation of a very technical issue, such as maximum height of the lip where the asphalt meets the cement.
The second portion is very broad: it’s about equal access. This part requires more discretion, but basically, the idea is that if an able-bodied person can access a good or service, a disabled person must be accommodated in a way that provides as much equality as possible. You can’t require that people using wheelchairs use an entrance around the back, unless you’re a historic property, for example.
This is where CVS failed.
Like most CVS stores, this one is located in a busy intersection, with parking all around it, and a drive-thru in the back (so much for the transit-village).
Pedestrians can be expected to arrive from three points: Walking south on Fowler, walking east on Kings Canyon, or arriving at the intersection from any other location. The front door faces the intersection.
Anyone arriving at the intersection obviously follows the most direct path to the door.
The front door points right at the corner, and even offers (poorly designed) bike racks!
There was a problem though. Those access points nearest to the intersection were not usable by people in wheelchairs. No ramps at all.
Those in wheelchairs were asked to take a lengthy detour. Lengthy detour = ADA alarm bells start ringing.
As you can see the red path is what an able-bodied person would do. The blue path is the lengthy route anyone in a wheelchair had to take. Clearly not equal access.
Now besides that fact that this store was built a full 20 years after ADA took effect, CVS, by nature of being a pharmacy, probably caters to the elderly and disabled more-so than other businesses. Add in the fact that this is a TOD area…and this is just unacceptable.
So I sent off an email in January. I got a call-back very quickly, allowing me to further explain the problem to a real person, who was very understanding.
I was then promised more action quickly:
It was a pleasure speaking with you today. As we discussed I am going to share your concerns with our field managers for review. You can expect a phone call from a member of our field management team within 5 business days to discuss this further. Click to read more!