July 14, 1999
The Honorable Charles S. Robb
United States Senator
The Ironfronts, Suite 310
1011 East Main Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Dear Senator Robb:
This is in response to your inquiry on behalf of your constituent, xxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx, who alleges that Sears and Roebuck has installed a computer customer service system that is inaccessible to persons with vision impairments and persons with poor or no manual dexterity.
Under title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), a public accommodation, such as Sears and Roebuck, shall take those steps necessary to ensure that no individual with disabilities is excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services unless the public accommodation can demonstrate that taking those steps would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, or facilities being offered or would result in an undue burden. 28 C.F.R § 36.303(a). The term auxiliary aids and services includes acquisition or modification of equipment or devices. Title III also requires a public accommodation to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures when necessary to afford goods and services to people with disabilities unless the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods and services. 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(a).
Please note, also, that the ADA defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment. 28 C.F.R. § 36.104. To determine whether a person is substantially limited in the ability to perform a major life activity, we look to the nature and severity of the injury, the duration of the impairment, and the permanent and long term impact of the injury. (See 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2 (j)(2)).
You should be aware that the Division is examining the ADA's application to the use of computer customer services by public accommodations. We will take xxx xxxxxxxxxxxx concerns into consideration as we continue our review.
As you requested, I am replying in duplicate and returning your correspondence. I hope this information is useful to you in responding to your constituent. Please do not hesitate to contact the Department if we can be of assistance in other matters.
Bill Lann Lee Acting Assistant
Civil Rights Division