Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 14, 2014

Supreme Court of MA Holds That Each Of Three Doorways To Store Was A Separate “Entrance” Required By Regulation To Be Accessible

In January, 2008, Jennifer Niles, a wheelchair user, filed a complaint with the board alleging that the Kingston store was not accessible. The owner of Hollister (the clothing retail store) sought judicial review of decision of Architectural Access Board requiring retailer to make all entrances to its store accessible to persons with disabilities. The Superior Court Department, Suffolk County, granted Board’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. The store owner appealed and the Appellate Court affirmed. Following this, the store owner applied for further appellate review.

Hollister argued that multiple doorways on the same façade must be deemed a single entrance, and where two of the three doorways are accessible, it was inappropriate for the board to conduct further inquiry into the nature of the third doorway. The board rejected this argument, because entering through the central porch gives the patron the option of arriving at a place different from the one arrived at by entering through one of the accessible side doors, and supports its reasonable determination that differences in use pattern between doorways may signal multiple entrances. The court agreed that since both interpretations were plausible it would not disturb the board’s decision. Furthermore, the determination that a substantial benefit could be had by persons with disabilities by providing access through the central porch ends the inquiry into whether a variance may be granted. Because the board’s denial of the variance was based on substantial evidence, this court affirmed the holding of the Superior Court.

J.M. Hollister LLC v Architectural Access Board, 2014 WL 3359665 (MA 7/10/2014)

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