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MAY 15 1992 The Honorable Robert A. Roe U.S. House of Representatives 2243 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515-3008 Dear Congressman Roe: This is in response to your inquiry on behalf of your constituent, XX Ms. XX(b)(6) seeks information about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Although we cannot provide legal interpretations or legal advice to individuals, this letter provides informal guidance to assist your constituent in understanding the ADA accessibility standards. Ms. XX writes that she does all of her shopping by telephone because of her disability. She presents two concerns -- first, that she is required to pay postage and handling fees for merchandise that is mailed to her, and, second, that some stores will not take special orders by telephone. She inquires whether the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) affords any recourse in these situations. Ms. XX(b)(6)suggests that some mechanism should be created whereby stores would be exempt from paying postage for mailing merchandise to persons who can provide proof of disability. The ADA itself has no provisions that require creation of such a mechanism. An amendment to the postal service laws or regulations would be required to implement such a procedure. The ADA does not require a store to pay the postage fees itself in these circumstances if the store is accessible to persons with disabilities. Ms. XX(b)(6) also states that some stores have policies not
to take special orders for out-of-stock merchandise unless the customer appears personally to sign the order. Ms. XX states that she is unable to make a personal visit to the store because of her disability. She is therefore unable to obtain the 01-00790
-2special order merchandise she seeks. The ADA requires stores to make "reasonable modifications" in their policies, practices and procedures in order to make their goods and services available to persons with disabilities, unless a modification would "fundamentally alter" the nature of the goods and services offered. In the circumstance Ms. XX describes, it may be reasonable to require the store to take special orders by telephone from persons with disabilities who cannot visit the store. If the store's concern is obtaining a guarantee of payment that only a signed order would provide, the store may be able to take such orders by mail from persons with disabilities or, in the alternative, take credit card orders by telephone. We hope this information will be of assistance to you in responding to your constituent. Sincerely,
W. Lee Rawls Assistant Attorney General
Congress of the United States House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515-3008 March 24, 1992 W. Lee Rawls Assistant Attorney General Office of Legislative Affairs Room 1603 10th Street & Constitution Ave, NW Washington, DC 20530 Dear Assistant Attorney General Rawls: Enclosed please find a copy of a letter from Ms. (b)(6) (b)(6) a constituent of my Eighth Congressional District in New Jersey, in which she discusses the possibility of exempting disabled individuals from paying postage for store sent items. I would greatly appreciate your review and comment on this matter.
Thank you again for your time and consideration, if I can be of any additional assistance, please do not hesitate to contact this office. With all good wishes. Sincerely, Robert A. Roe Member of Congress 01-00792 xx (b)(6) Upper Montclair, NJ 070 February 15, 1992 Editor, The Montclair Times: As a disabled citizen, I am delighted and relieved to observe that the Aid to the Disabled act, the most important civil rights legislation of the century, is being implemented on local and state levels as well as federal. I realize that change cannot happen all at once. It will be a gradual "inch by inch, row by row" process. Since I am forced to do all but grocery shopping by phone, I constantly am confronted by a situation familiar to all who are housebound. No matter what I order--be it a single compact and lipstick, or an audiocassette, whether it comes from a store in downtown Montclair or one of the shopping malls in Essex County-I am required to pay a $4 fee for postage and handling. Since I depend largely on Social Security Disability benefits for income, this can add up to an amount which becomes a financial hardship. Since the ADA is a federal policy, there should be some way that stores would themselves be exempt from paying postage when mailing merchandise to people who, by means of identification--e.g. a photocopy of their Social Security award--can mail in proof of their disability. Even more frustrating is the situation which arises when the item I wish to purchase--e.g. a record, a book--is not in stock and the store has to place a special order for it. I am told that this can be done only if I appear in person to sign the order. I explain that were I able to appear in person, I wouldn't be making this call in the first place, nor be asking to be notified by phone when the merchandise is in. The clerk then calls
the manager, who understands, perhaps even sympathizes with, my predicament but reminds me that he is only quoting store policy. it is a no-win situation for us both. I cannot obtain what I want, and the store loses a customer. There must be a way out. All suggestions are welcome! XX (b)(6) cc: Senator Bill Bradley Senator Frank Lautenberg Representative Robert Roe