DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
Rights Commission Targets Inaccessible Restaurants - A Good Move,
But We Need Mandatory Regulations Under The ODA
July 10, 2002
In a recent posting
on the Ontario Human Rights Commission's website(set
out below), the Commission documents barriers to access facing persons
disabilities when seeking to go to restaurants. It announces its plans
launch an inquiry in this area, focusing on restaurant chains.
described the situation facing persons with disabilities
that shows more than ever that Ontario needs strong and effective
regulations under the ODA 2001 requiring barriers to be removed in
sectors of Ontario. The Commission stated: "Forty per cent of
filed with the Commission are from persons with disabilities. Studies
that persons with disabilities continue to experience widespread and
endemic discrimination in all aspects of their daily lives."
The ODA Committee
wishes to re-emphasize the need for the Ontario
Government to use its power under the Ontarians with Disabilities
to make regulations covering private sector restaurant chains and
retail chain outlets, so that persons with disabilities will not have
address barriers in this sector one human rights complaint at a time.
ODA Committee proposed that such barriers be made a priority this
the Ontario Government implements the ODA 2001. In the proposed ODA
implementation workplan that we submitted to the Ontario Government
2002, we made these recommendations for action in this sector:
"16. By October
2002, the Accessibility Directorate should release two
additional discussion papers on standards and time-lines for removing
preventing barriers. One Discussion Paper should address health care
services. The other should address access to and benefitting from
services and facilities in chain retail establishments.
It would be helpful
if possible if these also addressed removing and
preventing barriers to employment in these organizations....
18. Full public
consultations on the topics of health care and access to
chain retail establishments should begin by December 2002. Draft
regulations regarding barrier removal and prevention in these sectors
should be proposed and published by May 2003, with a view to final
regulations being enacted four months later."
(From the Ontario Human Rights Commission's Website)
Accessibility and the Ontario Building Code
The Ontario Human
Rights Code creates a right to barrier-free restaurants,
shops, hotels, movie theatres and other public places, and obliges
businesses operating in Ontario to make their facilities accessible.
failure to provide equal access to a facility or equal treatment in
service constitutes a violation of the Human Rights Code. The only
available defence to such discrimination is showing that providing
or services would constitute undue hardship having regard to cost,
sources of funding, or health and safety factors.
In March 2001,
the Commission launched its new Policy
Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate (the "Disability
Policy"). The Commission indicated that it would be engaging
efforts to promote accessibility of services and facilities in Ontario.
Towards this end, the Commission has undertaken the following measures:
* In May 2001,
the Commission surveyed 29 major restaurant chains in
Ontario to ascertain the degree of accessibility of their premises,
standards are used for accessibility, and what objectives are set
achieving accessibility in future.
* The Commission
reviewed the responses received and determined that
restaurant chains are setting their standards for accessibility based
on the Ontario Building Code that was in effect at the time of construction
or renovation. Neither the Human Rights Code nor the Disability Policy
considerations in setting standards for accessibility.
* The Commission
will be initiating its own inquiry into the accessibility
of restaurant chains pursuant to its mandate under section 29 of the
Rights Code. Over the summer an expert will be visiting locations
several restaurant chains across the province to conduct restaurant
accessibility and service reviews.
* In March 2002,
the Commission presented an in-depth submission to the
It is hoped that
through measures such as these, in future, as our society
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing outlining the need for reform
the barrier-free access requirements in the Ontario Building Code.
submission describes priorities for change as well as the human rights
principles that should be reflected in a revised Building Code.
continues to age and greater numbers of people exhibit varying degrees
ability, issues of accessibility will not have to continue to be dealt
one human rights complaint at a time.
For further information or copies of the Commission's documents on
disability and age <http://www.ohrc.on.ca/english/publications/index.shtml>
discrimination, please visit our Web site at www.ohrc.on.ca.