Monday, April 18, 2011

Now that you can see it do you still want it?

The U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal by Chipotle Mexican Grill on Monday and left intact a federal appeals court ruling in San Francisco that said a nearly 4-foot barrier in a waiting line denied wheelchair users the right to see the food they were ordering.

The barrier "subjects disabled customers to a disadvantage that non-disabled customers do not suffer," the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July in a case from San Diego County. The ruling came on the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires businesses to treat disabled patrons equally and remove unnecessary obstacles.

Maurizio Antoninetti said in his lawsuit in 2005 that a 45-inch barrier at Chipotle restaurants in San Diego and Encinitas blocked his view of the counter, where customers can inspect each dish, choose their order and watch it being prepared.

Chipotle said it met wheelchair users' needs by bringing them spoonfuls of their preferred dish for inspection before ordering. But the appeals court said that doesn't match "the customer's personal participation in the selection and preparation of the food."

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