Viewer expresses concerns for disability access

SOCASTEE, SC (WMBF) A WMBF News viewer contacted us about concerns about discrimination to disabled customers at a local store. WMBF News is digging deeper into the complaint.

William Wood said, "The KNH store is the only place in Horry County that has not been accessible." Wood said when he rolled up in his wheelchair to the KNH Food Mart he was not allowed inside.

Wood added, "They had a handicap ramp and I was going up it and he met me at the door.  He held the door open just a little bit asking me what I wanted and that he could not let me in."

Owner Basem Hilal said he has specific reasons for not allowing people in wheelchairs into his store. Hilal said, "I said 'Sir, you can't come in.' My store is not equipped for your large vehicle because I'm scared you will hit an aisle or hurt yourself or hurt others."

But Hilal said whenever a disabled person comes to his store he does what he can to help them. Hilal added, "We kind of come in to the door and ask him what do you want and help him at the door."

Hilal added that it is a matter of store policy. Hilal added, "As a store manager you can allow and not allow. It is up to you…no rules. I can make somebody who comes to the store with bare foot or no shirt. I would tell him go get your shirt. And if he refuses I would tell him no service."

But according to the Americans with Disabilities Act there are "Maintenance of Effort" rules for public places including specifics about entrances and aisle widths to make them accessible to everyone. Those guidelines were put into place to protect people like William Wood.

Wood explained, "My rights. Why can't my rights be upheld just like your rights. You could have walked in there and chose your bubble gum and soda and seen which prices they were…your choice. I couldn't. I was denied that."

According to ADA guidelines, aisles are required to be 36 inches wide. Parts of the ADA guidelines leave some room for interpretation when it comes to businesses being forced to make those changes if it affects their bottom line.

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