Questioning Accessibility

This opinion was written in response to a River Town Times article, Grand Opening of River Bookshop.

The article mentioned building owner Richard Peddie’s observation that “Right now, within 150 yards of where we are standing, there are 11 other retail entrances that could become accessible if they too used StopGap ramps.”

Entrances would not necessarily become accessible just by utilizing a StopGap ramp which, as the name implies, is a temporary measure. In fact, in order to participate in the ramp project, the StopGap organization requires business owners to agree to and sign a waiver acknowledging, in part, “I know that this ramp is not intended to be a permanent ramp to my storefront and that the ramp should only be used when needed. When in use, the ramp should be level and flush against the step with no gaps present. When the ramp is not in use, it should be stored in a safe location. I understand that the use or storage of the ramp could cause injury to persons or property.”

A small window sign is supposed to advertise the availability of the ramp so customers can request it if required. In my opinion, this access method does not meet the core principles of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 of dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity.

Accessibility requires more than a ramp. A commitment to accessibility would include the removal of attitudinal barriers, the installation of automated doors, signage for people who are blind or have low vision, training on the human rights code including the accommodation of people with disabilities, and a public statement.

The bookshop’s website has some accessibility issues and provides no accessibility statement and no phone number or email or alternate methods of communication for potential customers. And, if the upper level will hold events, will it be accessible?

After a decade-long conflict with the town and my human rights complaint to ensure accessibility at the library, my observation is that there is greater emphasis on heritage preservation than barrier removal.

Linda Saxon