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ODA Committee Update


Ontario Human Rights Commission Targets Inaccessible
Restaurants - A Good Move, But We Need Mandatory
Regulations Under The ODA

July 13, 2002




Ontario Human 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 with
disabilities when seeking to go to restaurants. It announces its plans to
launch an inquiry in this area, focusing on restaurant chains.

The Commission 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 all
sectors of Ontario. The Commission stated: "Forty per cent of complaints
filed with the Commission are from persons with disabilities. Studies show
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 Act 2001
to make regulations covering private sector restaurant chains and other
retail chain outlets, so that persons with disabilities will not have to
address barriers in this sector one human rights complaint at a time. The
ODA Committee proposed that such barriers be made a priority this fall as
the Ontario Government implements the ODA 2001. In the proposed ODA
implementation workplan that we submitted to the Ontario Government in June
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 and
preventing barriers. One Discussion Paper should address health care
services. The other should address access to and benefitting from goods,
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)


Restaurant 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. A
failure to provide equal access to a facility or equal treatment in a
service constitutes a violation of the Human Rights Code. The only
available defence to such discrimination is showing that providing access
or services would constitute undue hardship having regard to cost, outside
sources of funding, or health and safety factors.

In March 2001, the Commission launched its new Policy
<http://www.ohrc.on.ca/english/publications/disability-policy.shtml> and
Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate (the "Disability
Policy"). The Commission indicated that it would be engaging in ongoing
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, what
standards are used for accessibility, and what objectives are set for
achieving accessibility in future.

* The Commission reviewed the responses received and determined that
restaurant chains are setting their standards for accessibility based only
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 are
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 Human
Rights Code. Over the summer an expert will be visiting locations of
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
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing outlining the need for reform to
the barrier-free access requirements in the Ontario Building Code. The
submission describes priorities for change as well as the human rights
principles that should be reflected in a revised Building Code.

It is hoped that through measures such as these, in future, as our society
continues to age and greater numbers of people exhibit varying degrees of
ability, issues of accessibility will not have to continue to be dealt with
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.



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