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Video Shows Wheelchair User’s Struggle At Clothing Store

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(credit: CBS) Reg Chapman
Reg Chapman joined WCCO-TV in May of 2009. He came to WCCO fr...
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By Reg Chapman, WCCO-TV

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) – A Minnesota teenager hopes her trip to the mall will lead to changes in the way stores are laid out.

Abi Christopherson uses a wheelchair. She gave WCCO-TV video to show the difficulty she had navigating an American Eagle store at the Mall of America.

Abi and her mom, Tracie Christopherson, said the store is discriminating.

“We were trying to find actually this sweatshirt and we could barely even get back there. We’re, like, bumping into things and everything,” Abi Christopherson said.

It was a trip meant to cheer up a girl that has been through so much.

Abi Christopherson has had 19 brain surgeries. The latest has her using a wheelchair to get around.

“All the aisles and racks and everything, there was just like no space to get through,” Abi said.

The aisle inside the American Eagle store proved too narrow for Abi’s wheelchair.

Tracie Christopherson said an employee noticed their struggle.

“We even had a clerk say, ‘Oh, I guess we’re not too wheelchair friendly, are we?’ and kind of giggled,” Tracie said.

She was so upset she fired off an email to the store’s corporate office, detailing her and Abi’s experience.

Fifteen minutes later, Tracie got a reply.

“I got an automatic response email, saying, ‘We care about what people think’,” Tracie said. “It is one they send out to everybody.”

Tracie says a district manager contacted her days later with a promise to look into the complaint.

Tracie and Abi went back to the same store a week later and recorded a video, which can be viewed above.

Abi’s chair had trouble navigating through the store, even bumping into tables, people and clothes along the way.

“We took apart tables in there and we couldn’t get through,” Tracie said.

Tracie wanted to know the law on how much space is required to be considered accessible.

“All aisles have to be a minimum of 36 inches. That is what is considered an accessible path of travel for somebody in a wheelchair,” said Margot Imdieke Cross, an accessibility specialist with the Minnesota State Council on Disability.

She said new shipments of clothing can sometimes lead to narrower paths. Still, they need to be wide enough.

Abi said that all she wants is to be able to browse and not bump into things in her path.

A spokeswoman for American Eagle told WCCO that its stores are designed and built to be in full compliance with all codes including the Americans With Disabilities Act.

She says a manager went through both stores to make sure they were in compliance.

And she says American Eagle is sorry the Christophersons did not have a good experience.

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