LANDOVER, Md. -- Giant Food here came to an agreement with The Disability Rights Council last week to make some modifications in its Washington-area stores to provide full and equal access to persons with disabilities.
Some of the necessary modifications may include adjustments to the electronic cash-transaction devices at checkout aisles, removing any access barriers in the parking lots and on the route from the lots to store entrances, and making salad bars and grocery carts more accessible, to name a few.
"The bottom line is to make sure everything is accessible," said Barry Scher, vice president of public affairs for Giant. "We have a major remodeling program and we are looking at all of our stores, as they are remodeled.
"We are looking at older units, especially [those] undergoing remodeling," Scher said. "For example, at the salad bar if you're in a wheelchair you can't reach the plastic containers. We will be putting in a special fixture that will hold the containers," he added.
Most of the stores also have cart corral gates, but some stores don't have a ramp that leads to the sidewalk adjacent to the cart-corral entrance, the retailer said, noting that although the sidewalk is only about 1 inch in height, the ramps would be installed. Additional staffing will also be included during the modification process.
"We have always had handicapped checkouts, [but they are] not staffed all the time," Scher told SN. In addition, all the checkouts will now be equipped with electronic cash-transaction devices.
"They [the electronic cash-transaction devices] are accessible; it's a matter that they are not at every checkout," Scher said. He added there would be additional transaction units installed as needed.
"Whatever changes we have to make, we are going to do it," he said.
The agreement between the retailer and the DRC of the greater Washington area came after the organization inspected 163 stores and pointed out some accessibility issues at some of the retailer's stores.
Giant said all the stores built after 1992 are already compliant, but some of the older stores need some modifications.
"Our stores have been accessible, but the DRC pointed out some deficiencies," Scher added. "[We are working] in a cooperative spirit to review all stores and make changes where necessary."
Some other stipulations of the agreement require the retailer to promote in a public-service advertising program the DRC's mission of eliminating discrimination against individuals with disabilities as well as provide monetary support for the DRC's mission.
The fees include reimbursement for the expenses and attorneys' fees incurred by the DRC in connection with its investigation of Giant's compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act and the negotiation of the settlement agreement, according to the retailer.