GOV TDD (202) 514-1888 WENDY'S RESTAURANTS TO BECOME MORE ACCESSIBLE UNDER AGREEMENT REACHED WITH JUSTICE DEPARTMENT AND NINE STATE AG's WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Nearly 1,700 Wendy's restaurants will become more accessible to their customers with disabilities, under an agreement reached today with the Justice Department and nine State Attorneys General. The out-of-court agreement stems from a joint nationwide investigation of the restaurant chain by the Justice Department and nine states--the first time the Justice Department has teamed up with states to launch an investigation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the agreement, Wendy's International, Inc. will either widen the queue system in which customers wait to order food, or remove them to accommodate customers who use wheelchairs. Prior to today's agreement, customers who use wheelchairs had to cut to the front of the line or stand outside the customer queue and wait to be recognized by a restaurant employee. "Integrating people with disabilities into society, even into a fast food line, is what the ADA is all about," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "People with disabilities do not want special treatment -they just want to be treated like everyone else." The agreement resolves a two-year investigation into access issues at Wendy's restaurants by the Justice Department and attorneys general from Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The joint task force visited newly constructed and older Wendy's restaurants in 12 states, which include the nine states, as well as Louisiana, Ohio, and Washington. The task force found that most Wendy's restaurants had customer queue lines that were too

narrow for wheelchairs. Other than the queue lines, Wendy's restaurants were found to have very few compliance problems. "Banks, retail stores, and other restaurants should follow Wendy's example and see if they, too, can become even more accessible," added Reno. Under the agreement, the Ohio-based chain has agreed to: either remove or widen the customer queues at all of its nearly 1,700 corporate-owned or leased restaurants in 39 states; modify its prototype architectural plans for future restaurants, both corporate-owned and franchised, to incorporate ADA-compliant customer queue designs; notify all franchisees of the agreement and of their obligations under the ADA, and provide them with technical assistance; allow the task force to conduct spot checks of restaurants covered by the agreement, to ensure that customer queues have been removed or widened; remove various other barriers found at the 17 newly constructed restaurants visited by members of the joint task force; pay the joint task force $50,000; and, pay a total of $12,000 in damages to five individuals or entities who filed complaints with the Justice Department or state attorney generals' offices, regarding accessibility at Wendy's. "It's

not just about widening a line in a fast food restaurant, it's about opening a door to a more accessible society," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.
The task force, which was organized and supported by the National Association of Attorneys General, will remain in place to ensure that other businesses comply with federal and state access laws. "This is a terrific example of what federal and state law enforcement can do by working together to ensure the rights of people with disabilities," added Reno. Title III of the ADA, which celebrated its eighth anniversary last month, requires that places of public accommodation, such as restaurants, be accessible to persons with disabilities. Newly

constructed restaurants, built after the law went into effect, must be built according to specific guidelines, called ADA Standards for new construction. Pre-existing restaurants, on the other hand, must meet those standards only if it is readily achievable to do so. In May 1997, the Justice Department entered into a consent order with Friendly's restaurants, requiring 704 Friendly's restaurants to be brought into ADA compliance by the year 2003. In an effort to educate more Americans about their rights and obligations under the ADA, Attorney General Reno launched a public education campaign. The campaign included a public service announcement, sponsoring President Clinton, that aired on hundreds of radio stations across the country. It also includes a toll-free ADA Information Line and a web site. People interested in finding out more about the ADA or today's agreement can call the toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 5140383/TDD or access the ADA home page at # # # 98-392