More Media Coverage Of Barriers To Accessible Customer Service For People With Disabilities Around Ontario — It’s Time for Effective Action by the Ontario Government

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May 8, 2013


It is the day before May 9, 2013, the world’s first Global Accessibility Awareness Day. We bring to your attention more recent media coverage of barriers to accessible customer service that Ontarians with disabilities have faced around the province, according to news reports. Keep sending us news reports in the media on this topic!

Below we set out a November 23, 2012 article in the on-line edition of the Markham Economist & Sun. It describes problems reportedly experienced last fall using a service dog in a Stouffville, Ontario restaurant.

This news report bears troubling similarity to the Toronto Star’s April 20 and 22, 2013 stories reporting on a person with hearing loss encountering problems at a Toronto restaurant, and the Windsor Star’s May 3 and 5, 2013 articles describing an incident where a person using a motorized wheel chair was reportedly denied full access to a Windsor store because she used a scooter. In each case, we cannot comment on the accuracy of these news reports.

More than ever, we need answers from the Ontario Government on these important questions:

* How many Ontario businesses have fulfilled their obligation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to file reports with the Government by the end of 2012 on their compliance with the Customer Service Accessibility Standard? How many did not? This information should be available to the Government at the push of a button.

* What plans does the Ontario Government have to keep its commitment to effectively enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, so that people with disabilities don’t have to privately investigate and litigate individual claims at the Human Rights Tribunal?

There have been 105 days since we wrote the Government to request its plans for enforcing the AODA. We are still waiting for the Government’s answer. Read our January 22, 2013 letter to the Ontario Government.

In the 2011 Ontario general election, Premier Dalton McGuinty again promised Ontarians with disabilities that the AODA would be effectively enforced. Read Dalton McGuinty’s August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance.

On December 3, 2012, as she campaigned for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, Kathleen Wynne promised us in writing that she would honour all Dalton McGuinty’s promises on disability and accessibility. That includes the pledge to effectively enforce the AODA. She is now Ontario’s premier. Read Kathleen Wynne’s December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA alliance.

* What enforcement steps is the Ontario Government taking in connection with these publicized incidents that concern compliance with the Customer Service Accessibility Standard?

This morning, the Ontario Government sent out the following tweet on Twitter:
“@ONAccessibility: Has your #business filed an #accessibility customer service report yet? Visit our easy to use online tool today.

It is helpful for the Government to again remind businesses that they are required to file an Accessibility Report disclosing their compliance with the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. However, those reports were due by the end of last year. Over four months later, it is time for effective enforcement. The AODA gives the Government enforcement tools. We want these effectively used.

* When will the Ontario Government fulfil its obligation to launch the mandatory review of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard? These news reports surely show that that standard needs to be substantially strengthened.

* When will the Ontario Government fulfil its obligation to appoint all the members to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC)? How quickly will the Government get that Council together to meet? ASAC needs to get to work on the review of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, and to start developing new accessibility standards. Learn more about ASAC.

* When will the Ontario Government appoint the next mandatory review of the AODA? The person must be appointed no later than May 31, 2013. On Twitter and Facebook, we are running a daily countdown to that deadline. As of today, there are only 23 days left. Learn more about the Government’s obligation to appoint the next Independent Review of the AODA.

Read the Windsor Star’s recent coverage of customer service accessibility barriers.

Read the Toronto Star’s recent coverage of customer service accessibility barriers.

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November 23 2012 from website


Restaurant riles Stouffville couple denied entry Markham Economist & Sun

All Jim Brown wanted to do was get something to eat.
But now, his wife Colette, after nine years on the Whitchurch-Stouffville accessibility committee has resigned. And the couple is deciding whether or not they should file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission after being kicked out of a Markham restaurant because Mr. Brown was accompanied by his service dogs. He is paraplegic.
“If you have a law, it should have bite,” Mrs. Brown, 68, said of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
For years, the couple believed the act would punish those who do not comply with it. But that is not the case, they said.
“I’m quitting because the system is really re-abusing the people,” she said.
“It’s pretty ridiculous when you look at the person who’s the offender. There’s no consequence. It’s all up to the victim,” Mrs. Brown said.
Around noon Nov. 16, the Stouffville residents entered Hwy. 7’s Bluenose Fish and Chips restaurant, along with Mr. Brown’s two service dogs. They had just come from a medical appointment next door.
When they entered the restaurant, Mr. Brown said they were verbally assaulted and told to leave by the waitress as well as the owner because of the service dogs.
Under the AODA, service dogs are allowed to go virtually everywhere their human companions are allowed. Exceptions include food preparation areas of restaurants.
The Browns thought contacting York Regional Police could potentially lead to charges.
But according to Const. Andy Pattenden, the Trespass to Property Act supersedes the AODA, therefore, the restaurant owner’s request for them to leave his property, no matter the reason, was acceptable.
“I’ve got to think it wouldn’t be good for business,” Const. Pattenden said.
According to the AODA, “If a provision of this Act, of an accessibility standard or of any other regulation conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.”
“The Trespass to Property Act is not applicable,” said Charlotte Wilkinson, spokesperson for the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
“It’s a human rights issue,” she said, noting the AODA’s purpose is to help organizations comply with the regulations, not enforce them.
Mr. Brown’s doctors, according to his wife, have advised against filing a human rights complaint due to his poor health.
“We need to listen to his doctors. There’s other ways we can fight. There’s other ways we can advocate,” Mrs. Brown said.
Mr. Brown told The Sun-Tribune, just a few hours after the incident, he tried explaining to the restaurateur and waitress they were service dogs, but it was to no avail.
Since then, the owner has had a change in attitude.
“We erred in judgment. We made a big mistake,” Bluenose Fish and Chips owner Nick Kiriakou told The Sun-Tribune this week.
Mr. Kiriakou said he was more concerned about appeasing the six customers who complained to him and the waitress about the dogs, than acknowledging Mr. Brown’s rights.
He said four of the six customers left.
“We’re sorry for the incident,” Mr. Kiriakou said, noting in the 20 years the business has been operating, this was the first time service dogs have tried to enter the eatery.
“It’s embarrassing and I wish we focused more on their needs,” he said.
Mr. Kiriakou may be remorseful, but it does not mean the incident is over.
York Regional Police is still investigating, as is the City of Markham’s bylaw department.
Bylaw officers do not have the authority to lay charges against Mr. Kiriakou under the provincial legislation, according to Chris Alexander, the city’s supervisor of licensing and animal services.
But the business licence can be revoked.
“This is not the right behaviour we want or expect from our licensees,” Mr. Alexander said.
“We’ll give him one opportunity and he’ll be cautioned,” he said.