Advocates: Candy Company's Tour Policy Discriminates Against Visitors
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 30, 2006
DENVER, COLORADO--Two disability groups and a Colorado woman with a mental illness are suing a candy company claiming that its tour policies discriminate against people with disabilities.
According to the 13-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court last Tuesday, the suit was prompted by an incident last spring, when the Capitol Hill Action and Recreation Group, Inc. (CHARG), which coordinates activities for people with mental illnesses, took some members to Stephany's Chocolate corporate headquarters and kitchen in Arvada, Colorado for its free public tour.
After the tour was arranged, a Stephany's store manager informed CHARG staff that their tour policies require each person with a disability to have one attendant without a disability. The manager said the group could come to the factory, but they would only be allowed in the sales office to watch a video.
When the group arrived on May 3 without the one-on-one attendants, the group was made to sit and watch a 5- to 10-minute video about the company, but were not allowed to take the tour, the suit claims.
The disability rights advocacy group Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) later learned that, not only do the company's policies require "individuals with special needs" to have a care giver or service provider along for a tour, they also prohibit those who use oxygen bottles, walking canes, wheelchairs and walkers from touring the kitchen at all.
The suit claims that those policies violate Title III of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which covers equal access to public accommodations and commercial facilities.
"Stephany's Chocolate's actions are outrageous!" said Julie Reiskin, CCDC's executive director, in a press statement. "This paternalistic attitude that we need a non-disabled adult to accompany us at all times is insulting, discriminatory, and exactly why the ADA was passed to begin with."
Stephany's has refused to change the policies, arguing that they protect the safety and health of visitors and factory employees.
Plaintiff Jennifer Miller is a member of both CCDC and CHARG, the suit noted.
Complaint against Stephany's Chocolates (Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition)