ACTIVIST Newsletter logo with ACTIVIST word displayed diagonally from bottom left to upper right
July 2005
by Maureen Green

The next time you think "So, what can I do about it" think about this: One of our DIA members got tired of trying to get around his local Macy’s in Flushing, Queens. So he contacted his council members, the store executives and the Human Rights Commission. He got results. It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy but it was worth it.

I joined him and two people from the Human Rights Commission, Bob Tilley and Ted Finkelstein, Director of Project Equal Access, for a tour of the Flushing store. There is now a wheelchair-accessible push-button entrance by the third door closest to Union Street. Upon entering there is a store directory that lists the accessible bathroom and the elevators. The wheelchair insignia is small, the same color as the rest of the sign and difficult to find so they have agreed to replace it with the traditional blue insignia. Directly in front of you above the merchandise with the other store signage is a sign pointing out the elevator.

As we went through the store we found most of the aisles were passable with the exception of the sale racks. They agreed to take a wheelchair and try to go through the sale racks to make sure they were passable. In two departments we found what is a classic problem in all department stores. The management wants to comply with the ADA but the department heads and sales people in an effort to sell more of their merchandise put things in our way. The head of the store agreed to talk to his people about wheelchair access, and Rachael Stern, Associate Counsel of Federated Department Stores (the parent company of Macy’s), who was working with us for all Macy’s stores, agreed to pass the message along.

The Flushing store has two departments that are on sublevels accessible by a small staircase, so they put in a lift. We have to go to the nearest cashier to get the key (this is a problem so they are going to put in a phone that goes to the department). The lift is dangerous and when we pointed this out they agreed to fix it immediately.

The accessible restroom is in the basement and is totally accessible but there are only 3 stalls in the ladies’ room including the accessible stall, so be prepared for a long line. The restroom was very clean.

They are working on their other stores and continuing to work on this one. They are willing to work with us and have invited us to give them a little time and return to this store and visit their other stores.

If you have an access problem with any Macy’s store within New York City, please call Ted Finkelstein of the Commission on Human Rights at 212-306-7330 or e-mail him at Recently, he got a complaint about a Macy’s store in the Bronx.

The same DIA member had problems accessing merchandise in Modell’s. After a series of meetings, Modell’s agreed to improve access and has hired a disability consultant to survey their stores and come up with solutions to access problems.