You are here:

Knocking Down Barriers

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The follwing Editorial appeared in the Toronto Star, July 8, 2002. We wish to commend the Ontario Human Rights Commission for investigating barriers to equality that still confront groups covered under their Code, and recommend other Commissions take similar action.

Keith Norton is out to make the everyday task of grabbing a coffee or a fast-food burger much easier for Ontario residents with disabilities.

Norton, the province's human rights commissioner, surveyed 29 major restaurant, coffee shop and fast-food chains last year and found that many of them are not following the accessibility standards set out in the Human Rights Code.

It's not just a matter of having wheelchair ramps and wide doors. Real accessibility requires features such as Braille menus, lower counters and larger-than-normal washroom stalls, designed to accommodate people with various disabilities.

Some of these modifications are expensive, many aren't. They can allow individuals with disabilities to enjoy a meal, a snack or a drink and to leave with their dignity intact.

Tough disability legislation in the United States has compelled the big food chains to implement such measures south of the border. So clearly these steps are feasible.

The question is why aren't these same outlets taking similar steps in Ontario.

Norton puts some of the blame on the Ontario Building Code, which lacks comprehensive standards of making public facilities accessible.

The other problem is the province's feeble Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This legislation was an opportunity for the province to knock down the barriers that stand in the way of people with disabilities.

What got rammed through last December was a watered-down law that failed to set province-wide accessibility standards and did little to address the kind of impediments faced by the blind, deaf and mentally disabled.

Against the backdrop of provincial inaction, Norton's initiative is welcome.

But what are really needed are provincial politicians willing to back up their promises to make Ontario accessible with tough laws that actually do.

ZZ - Disregard this link; it is used to trick spammers.