October 19, 2001 -- The Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington (DRC) and two individuals who use wheelchairs filed suit earlier this month Murry's Steaks, Inc. -- a chain of small groceries -- over what they called "barriers that prevent people with disabilities from entering Murry's stores in the Washington metropolitan area."
Five of the six Murry's stores in the District of Columbia have inaccessible entrances. Of the 35 remaining stores that DRC surveyed in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, 17 have entrances that are inaccessible to people who use wheelchairs. "The barriers include 'flag gates' in fences around the stores' entrances that are so narrow at the top that many people who use wheelchairs and walkers cannot get through them," say the plaintiffs. "Murry's has violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and the D.C. Human Rights Act by failing to remove these significant structural barriers that exclude people with disabilities from its stores."
"It is shocking that Murry's has permitted so many of its stores to remain inaccessible, over ten years after the passage of the ADA," says DRC Director Linda Royster. "Retailers must understand that providing access to their stores is a basic requirement of the ADA that they should have satisfied a long time ago."
The two plaintiffs named in the suit, Dale Spruill and James L. Sanders, are residents of the District of Columbia who use wheelchairs for mobility. Both tried to shop at the Murry's Steaks store in their neighborhood, where a locked fence and a flag gate bar them from entering the store. Sanders complained to the Disability Rights Council after waiting in the rain for someone to come by who would ask the manager to come out and unlock the gate. "On that day, Mr. Sanders never did get into the store. On other days, when he could get the manager to come out and unlock the gate, he also had to have someone let him out after he finished shopping. Mr. Spruill, who also uses a wheelchair for mobility, faced the same barriers. Although both men repeatedly complained to the management of their neighborhood store about the illegal barriers, the barriers remain," says DRC.
Murry's Steaks "are often are more conveniently located in the city than are the larger grocery chains or convenience stores," says DRC. "Unfortunately, however, people with disabilities cannot take advantage of this neighborhood convenience, because Murry's refusal to remove these barriers severely restricts access to this important retailer for many D.C. and area residents with disabilities."
DRC, is a non-profit membership organization of persons with disabilities and others who are interested in equal rights, equal access and equal opportunity for persons with disabilities. The DRC's principal goal is "eliminating discrimination against individuals with disabilities," says the group. It has brought lawsuits against a number of major retail chains, and settled recent cases with Safeway, Giant, and Shoppers Food Warehouse.
The plaintiffs are represented by John Burke and Larry Martin, of the law firm of Foley, Hoag & Eliot, and Elaine Gardner of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asks the Court to order Murry's to comply with the ADA and seeks an unspecified amount of damages for the plaintiffs.
Murry's, Inc. is a regional corporation, with its principal executive offices in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. The company does business in the mid-Atlantic region, with stores in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
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