Amherstburg Prioritizes History

The province aims for an accessible province by 2025, while am800 reports that Amherstburg will focus on a historical feel.

Historically, the town of Amherstburg has not shown a strong commitment to ensuring equal access to persons with disabilities.

There are numerous examples of perpetuated barriers, from the town’s website to the town giving taxpayer dollars to not for profit organizations with barriers.

One of the most prolonged examples of a lack of commitment to barrier removal is the town of Amherstburg’s decade long resistance to making the library accessible.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission highlighted Linda Saxon v. Corporation of Town of Amherstburg (Settlement, H.R.T.O.) in its 2004-2005 annual report and summarized the case:

Linda Saxon v. Corporation of Town of Amherstburg (Settlement, H.R.T.O.)

“A settlement was reached between the Commission, the complainant and the respondent Town. The complainant made an initial complaint, on the basis of disability, because she was unable to access the Town’s library, which could only be entered via a number of stairs. The library has been renovated since the complainant filed her complaint. The Town has created a lobby at ground level with an elevator and automated doors. It also attempted to make modifications to a washroom to make it accessible. The Commission’s barrier-free design expert reviewed the renovations and found some remaining barriers, but approved of the elevator itself. The Town has agreed to implement a number of the Commission’s expert’s recommendations to improve accessibility at the Town library, namely:

  • install handrails on either side of a ramp of a specified thickness;
  • make level the threshold at an entrance;
  • request the County Library to create an accessible after-hours book depository;
  • install lever hardware on a door to the accessible washroom;
  • remove a vanity unit to provide sufficient clearance in the accessible washroom;
  • relocate the light switch, side grab bar, mirror, and paper dispenser in the accessible washroom; and,
  • replace push buttons with push plates of a larger diameter that are easier to manipulate.

As part of the settlement, the respondent has also agreed to retain a qualified consultant to provide a mandatory training session for the members of the town council on the accommodation of individuals with disabilities.”

The handrails were not installed as agreed to; in September 2005, I notified the commission that I wished to file a breach of settlement complaint against the town of Amherstburg. Within days, the handrails were replaced with ones that complied with the Ontario building code.

The council of the day routinely ignored my requests for accessibility as a priority and resisted applying for grants that stipulated accessibility was a priority for funding approval. Council’s commitment to history was obvious when it donated $710,000. to the HMS Detroit, now defunct, while the taxpayers incurred rate increases as a result.

Hopefully, stepping back in time will not mean taking a step backwards or having history repeat itself with the town defending itself against human rights complaints because it resists barrier removal and inclusion.