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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
July 12, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General
Division on Civil Rights
- J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, Director

 

Lee Moore
609-292-4791

 

AG Harvey, Division on Civil Rights Strengthen Access for Shoppers with Disabilities

>> View the Shopping Mall Accessibility Report (103k pdf) plugin

TRENTON -- Attorney General Peter C. Harvey and the Division on Civil Rights announced today that the State has obtained commitments from six major shopping centers in New Jersey to better accommodate persons with disabilities by either installing automatic doors for the first time, or installing additional automatic doors and making other changes.

As part of a statewide shopping mall accessibility initiative, Division on Civil Rights staff, under the supervision of Director J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, began testing the accessibility of entrance and exit areas at 28 shopping malls throughout New Jersey in late 2004. Harvey said that, as a result of the inspections, six malls were found to be deficient because they lacked power-assisted or automatic doors to accommodate shoppers with disabilities or impairments. The six malls included: Burlington Center in Burlington, Shore Mall in Egg Harbor Township, Newport Center Mall in Jersey City, Menlo Park Mall in Edison, Cumberland Mall in Vineland, and Cherry Hill Mall in Cherry Hill.

Harvey noted that, in the aftermath of the inspections, each of the six malls agreed, in writing, to install automatic doors and make other improvements. For example, the owners of Burlington Center have already installed an automatic-opening door, added signs to help patrons locate the improved entrance/exit, and adjusted the “pull force” of other doors to make them easier to open. The owners of the Cherry Hill Mall, which already had one power-assisted door in place, agreed to install two additional automatic doors, post signs throughout the facility, and revise mall maps – including those on its Web site.

“These improvements represent important progress,” said Attorney General Harvey. “The fact is that modern shopping malls are hubs of commerce and community, and many of the people who visit them each day have disabilities or impairments. While many of us may take it for granted, the simple act of entering or leaving a shopping mall can be difficult -- if not impossible -- for someone using a wheelchair, a walker or other mobility aid.”

Harvey explained that the State’s ongoing accessibility initiative is focused on ensuring that such individuals, and others who may have difficulty using non-automatic entrances, are able to “get in the door” of the shopping malls they visit.

The Attorney General noted that power-assisted door opening devices are not, at this time, explicitly required by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“However, we believe that the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and the Division’s regulations on disability discrimination require installation of such devices as a reasonable accommodation,” Harvey said.

Division on Civil Rights Director Vespa-Papaleo noted that, of the 28 malls inspected, 15 were found to have sufficient access by way of either automatic or power assisted doors. The 15 included: Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth, Hamilton Mall in Mays Landing, Freehold Raceway Mall in Freehold, Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, Deptford Mall in Deptford, Paramus Park Shopping Center in Paramus, Garden State Plaza in Paramus, Fashion Center in Paramus, Bergen Mall in Paramus, MarketFair in Princeton, Quakerbridge Mall in Lawrenceville, Bridgewater Commons in Bridgewater, Ocean County Mall in Toms River, Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, and Brunswick Square Mall in North Brunswick.

Seven other malls were found to have at least one entrance equipped with an automatic or power-assisted door, but had other issues related to the accessibility of their entrance doors. The seven include Moorestown Mall in Moorestown, Echelon Mall in Voorhees, Phillipsburg Mall in Phillipsburg, Livingston Mall in Livingston, Rockaway Town Square in Rockaway, Woodbridge Center in Woodbridge, and Willowbrook Mall in Wayne.

Vespa-Papaleo said the problems typically involved a lack of signs directing patrons to the entrance/exit areas equipped with automatic doors, or the existence of automatic door opening devices in need of service. He said he expects those malls, too, to resolve their lingering accessibility issues in the coming months.

“Including the commitments received as part of this initiative, every one of the twenty-eight malls reviewed is or soon will be accessible,” noted Director Frank Vespa-Papaleo. “This not only helps to make these malls accessible to shoppers who use mobility aids, but also to millions of parents with strollers and senior citizens. More access means a more enjoyable shopping experience for the consumer, and more sales for retailers and mall operators.”

Advocacy organizations, meanwhile, applauded the Attorney General’s accessibility initiative.

“We are delighted that the Attorney General’s Office, through the Division on Civil Rights, has made accessibility for persons with mobility impairments a top priority,” explained Ethan Ellis, Director of the Developmental Disabilities Council, a group that advocates for wheelchair users. “Those of us who use wheelchairs to get around want to visit our shopping malls, and we have had barriers to getting in the doors. This is a great step to universal access for all persons.”

Attorney General Harvey praised the shopping malls for their prompt attention to the survey results, and for their commitment to increasing access.

“I commend them for leading the way to increased access for all persons,” said Harvey. “It is not only good business, it is the right thing to do.”

Director Vespa-Papaleo said that, “Within the next 12 months, New Jersey’s shopping malls will become among the most accessible in the nation. That bodes well for New Jersey’s consumers and businesses, and more than 67 million shoppers who visit New Jersey’s shopping malls annually. Improved accessibility through the use of automatic or power-assisted doors gives everyone in New Jersey a way of ‘getting in the door.’ “

>> View the Shopping Mall Accessibility Report (103k pdf) plugin

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) provides that each Respondent found to have committed a violation is subject to a penalty of up to $10,000, provided he or she has not been convicted of a previous violation within the past five years. Respondents who have violated the LAD within the past five years are subject to a penalty of up to $25,000, while those who have been convicted of two or more violations within the past seven years are subject to a penalty of up to $50,000.

The Division on Civil Rights is responsible for enforcing the LAD and the Family Leave Act. Specifically, the Division investigates allegations of discrimination in employment, housing, places of public accommodation and credit. Its offices are located in Atlantic City, Camden, Jersey City, Newark, Paterson, and Trenton. Further information about the Division is available on its Web site at www.NJCivilRights.org .

>> View the Shopping Mall Accessibility Report (103k pdf) plugin


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