CVS recently took action to challenge Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the first federal disability civil rights law, arguing that discrimination against disabled people should be permitted as long as it is unintentional. While this argument is hateful and unreasonable itself, it is clearly a distraction from a larger ADA violation that the store has been getting away with for centuries.
If you’re like me, you know what it feels like to buy a candy bar for $2.99 and be handed a paper receipt so long that it makes men feel embarrassed. You’re stuck there holding it, and you don’t really know why you needed a receipt to begin with. It’s unlikely someone will demand tangible verification of your chocolatey purchase, and even less likely that you will decide to return the snack, which is probably already in your belly.
If you are an able-bodied person, this papery snake of tiny words might be a nuisance. You don’t want to toss it on the curb, because you care about the environment. On the other hand, it’s annoying to crumple it up in your pocket and have to carry it around and take care of it all day like some sort of trash Tamagotchi.
While able-bodied people face these very real inconveniences, the receipts pose a life-threatening safety hazard to those of us with disabilities. If you are a wheelchair user, the receipt may slip and get caught in your chair’s motor, causing it to coil and damage an irreplaceable mobility aid. If you have difficulty balancing or walking, the receipt could get caught on your shoe, and cause you to trip and fall and break your bones. If you are blind, the receipt may be so long and thin that the next day you mistake it for cheap toilet paper, which causes you to get in a fight with your boyfriend because he’s too cheap to buy two-ply.
By disproportionately posing risks to disabled customers, the receipts violate these very same protections that CVS is attacking. This act of discrimination might be unintentional, but it is still discrimination, and it should not be tolerated by disabled people or by the Supreme Court. If CVS wins its case, this dangerous tradition of never-ending paper receipts will undoubtedly continue.
CVS is correct that there is grave injustice; the company is just wrong about who’s committing it. Until people with disabilities can safely make purchases without the fear of being forcefully given a hazardous burden to carry, CVS is unintentionally committing an act of discrimination and should be punished accordingly.