A wheelchair-bound woman who has eaten at a Redwood City Taco Bell at least twice a month for several years is suing the company for not complying with handicap access standards, saying she has been left humiliated by having others place her order or only procuring food through the drive-through window.
Susan Seales was part of a decade-old class action lawsuit against Taco Bell in which a federal judge ultimately ordered the upgrade of more than 200 California restaurants. However, in July 2012, the court also decertified the class for damage claims and Seales is now seeking that relief though the San Mateo County Superior Court.
Seales has lumbar stenosis which leaves her unable to walk or stand, according to the lawsuit filed Dec. 27. Between roughly 2002 and now, Seales has visited the Taco Bell at 2693 El Camino Real several times and from 2002 to 2009 dined inside the restaurant twice a month. From 2009 on, though, she has only used the drive-through to buy food which she eats in the parking lot because of the "severe and pervasive” accessibility barriers, the suit states.
According to the suit, these barriers include having to cross the drive-through lane to reach the restaurant’s main entrance from the accessible parking area, excessive slopes in the path of travel to that entrance and ordering lines too narrow for wheelchair users.
Seales’ daughter or another customer would have to place her order as a result, giving her "discomfort, embarrassment and distress.”
The suit also claims wheelchair-using customers can’t reach the drinks and condiments on the service counter or slide the chair under the tabletops to dine.
A Taco Bell representative said the company cannot comment on the lawsuit’s specifics but that the company takes its Americans with Disabilities Act obligations very seriously.
"We go to great lengths to ensure that our restaurants meet or exceed legal requirements and have employees specifically responsible for complying with the ADA as well as outside experts to help in our efforts. We intend to vigorously defend this case,” wrote Rob Poetsch, of the Taco Bell Corporation, in an email.
Michelle Durand can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.