83 Ma App Ct 513 (2013)
Hollister sold clothes from a store in a mall. The retailer replaced the accessible mall level entrance with two adjacent doorways and it constructed a ‘porch’ two steps up and back down leading into the store. On either side of the porch, at grade were handicapped accessible doors. One of the accessible doors sometimes did not work. As the result of a compliant the Architectural Access Board held a hearing. The retailer applied for a variance from the obligation to make all exterior doors accessible, to validate the porch arrangement beside the accessible doors.
The architectural board denied the retailer’s variance request because the accessible door was not reliably functional. The board rejected the idea that the three entrances (2 beside and one on the porch) were a single entrance. The retailer sued in Court challenging the administrative agency’s decision as arbitrary.
Was it arbitrary and reversible for the Board to find that the entrances were separate and functionally different?
Court upheld the Architectural Board’s decision.
Putting inaccessible steps in a previously accessible doorway, even with accessible doors on either side of the obstacle, can be ruled a violation of the regulation to make all entrances accessible. Courts defer to Board’s interpretation of the remedial regulations they are set up to enforce.
The Board could find the porch construction was not comparable to having accessible doors beside a revolving door.
The case was accepted for further review by Massachusetts’ top Court the SJC. The undeniably accessible doors beside the porch step door, may be found allowable.