Barrier-free decision ramps up accessibility

By Moses Shuldiner –

Advocates for barrier-free access took a step forward last month when chief commissioner and Cabbagetown resident Barbara Hall of the Ontario Human Rights Commission released “Moving Towards Barrier-Free Services,” the commission’s final report into restaurant accessibility.

The report is a victory for Downtown residents and activists who campaigned for barrier-free access in 2002, when Pizza Pizza spent $500,000 to renovate their outlet at 560 Parliament St. The renovations did not remove barriers to access for the disabled and actually added a door, which impedes access to the washrooms that accommodate wheelchairs.

When challenged by the Hugh Garner Housing Co-operative Barrier Free Working Group, other area residents and Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman’s staff, Pizza Pizza employees and the architect in charge of the job said that they had complied with all the rules.

The Conservative government had in 2002 just introduced a new Ontarians with Disabilities Act to guarantee that persons with disabilities have the right, under the Ontario Human Rights Code to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities.

Unfortunately there were no provisions in the act to pressure businesses to comply with these intentions.

As a result approximately 50 people with disabilities, friends, Coun. Pam McConnell, Smitherman and Ernie Parson held a demonstration outside the Parliament St. restaurant to demand barrier-free access.

Pizza Pizza is one of the 26 restaurant chains that have bound themselves to the accessibility commitments outlined in the report.

The full report is available at www.thebulletin.ca.

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