Robert Mateus just wants to make an after-hours deposit at his Wells Fargo bank.
But the handle on the night depository at the East Broadway branch, 381 E. Broadway, is more than 54 inches above the street, making it difficult to access for customers in wheelchairs, like Mateus.
The Disabled Rights Action Committee (DRAC) has filed suit against Wells Fargo on behalf of Mateus, alleging the night deposit at several Wells Fargo branches does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The DRAC contacted Wells Fargo branch manager Billy Espindola about the issue in September, the complaint alleges. Espindola suggested that clients with disabilities come in during bank hours to use a teller, said DRAC's attorney, Stewart Gollan. The bank also provides accessible ATMs at its Salt Lake City branches.
"At Wells Fargo, we are committed to providing outstanding service and access to all of our customers, including those with disabilities," Wells Fargo said in a statement.
But these solutions miss the point, and still don't comply with ADA, according to Gollan. Patrons can't access tellers after-hours, and must be a customer with a Wells Fargo bank card to use the ATM.
Those challenges are all too common for people with disabilities, said DRAC chair Barbara Toomer, who uses a wheelchair. Toomer said she is constantly confronted with narrow aisles, steps in front of businesses and gas station employees who won't help
Toomer says compliance with the ADA is a civil rights issue that benefits everyone. Up to 85 percent of people will experience some sort of disability for six months or more by age 90, Toomer said. People take accessibility for granted until it impacts them.
"It comes down to treating people equally," she said. "I look at that as the same attempt to segregate me as they used in the South."
Wells Fargo argues the branches in question were built before ADA became law, and are exempt from the "new construction" provision.
While those buildings may be older, Gollan argues they must be altered to make "reasonable accommodation" to people with disabilities. With billions of dollars at its disposal, the bank's burden to provide such accommodation is greater than for a small, locally owned business, Gollan said.
The DRAC is not seeking any monetary relief, Toomer said, but simply wants the bank to comply with the law.