Hollister Co. to make entrances wheelchair accessible

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

DENVER (AP) — Hollister Co. has agreed to remodel entrances to dozens of its beach-house style stores across the country to make them wheelchair accessible as part of a proposed settlement agreement.

A Denver federal judge is expected to approve the settlement Thursday, marking the end of a long court battle between the clothing store chain and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, which accused it of discriminating against wheelchair users.

The organization argued in a class-action lawsuit that Hollister violated federal law by limiting wheelchair users to side entrances. The front entrances resemble porches with steps.

A federal judge in 2011 ruled that the raised porches violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. But a panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling last year, finding that the clothing store did not break the law, in part because it offered alternative entrances for wheelchair users.

The coalition argued the side doors were often locked or hard to find because they resembled windows.

The proposed settlement came after Hollister said it had already converted many of its storefronts and closed some of its stores. Future stores would no longer have raised entrances, and wheelchair users would be able to enter from the same door as other customers, under the settlement.

Hollister said in the agreement that it undertook $11 million in accessibility measures as a result of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit challenged raised porches at about 250 stores across the country. Under the deal, no more than 126 stores will have such entrances by January 31, 2016.