Reasonable access for mobility-disabled persons is more than widening the door

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) introduced enforced accommodations implemented by retail businesses for disabled shoppers. Despite such legislation, disability advocates and disabled shoppers report that access remains incomplete. In this article I investigate an apparent dilemma facing retailers: that architectural interpretations of the ADA do not create the reasonable access that mobility-disabled shoppers actually desire. Despite this law, I propose that reasonable access depends heavily on a commitment by individual retailers to interpret the ADA in terms of consumer experience. Critical ethnography is used to uncover the multiple sides of this issue through the voices of retail students simulating disabilities, retail student teams accompanying disabled students, and retail managers discussing disabilities access. Analysis of these data exposes numerous contradictions between structural compliance and desired consumer access. Based on those contradictions, a Reasonable Access Framework is proposed that potentially could assist retailers in developing a code of reasonable access based on their own professional standards. Public policy implications are also presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-508
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Retailing
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Marketing


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