Hugh Adami, Ottawa Citizen
Published on: July 17, 2015
Stephane Parisien was pretty miffed earlier this month when he showed up at the Service Ontario franchise on St Joseph Blvd in Orleans and saw that it didn’t have an automatic door for access by the disabled.
Stephane Parisien got an apology from the Ontario government, but the disabled man who uses a wheelchair hopes it wasnt just lip service.
Parisien, 41, went to the ServiceOntario centre in Orléans a couple of weeks ago to renew his drivers licence and plates, and was mighty miffed that the entrance was not equipped with an automated door. Either with a push of a button or a motion detector, an automated door would have made the entrance accessible without having to depend on someone to hold it open for him.
It really shows you the folks involved in building these locations are not sitting in a wheelchair or disabled in one way or another, wrote Parisien in an email to various politicians, bureaucrats and the media.
He says the answer he got from a clerk in the ServiceOntario outlet after he got inside well, its not the law only raised his blood pressure.
True, its not the law as the building that houses the ServiceOntario outlet, which moved there from its former location next door in 2012, was only renovated before the move, and, as the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing explains, accessibility standards generally apply to newly constructed buildings or those undergoing extensive renovation.
The 2012 Building Code requires that entrances to most buildings to which the public is likely to have access have power door operators, says a ministry spokesman in an email to The Public Citizen. But as the outlet at 2864 St. Joseph Blvd. was an existing building when the outlet moved there, an automated entrance was not required.
And even though the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services tells Parisien in its email reply this week that new standards came into effect last Jan. 1 requiring automated doors in a wider range of buildings, including multi-unit residential the rules again only apply to new construction.
Law or not, theres another hitch. The Orléans outlet is like many others in Ontario under contract with the province and run by an independent operator who delivers various services on the governments behalf. Essentially a franchisee, the operator is responsible for staffing and the premises.
Though all publicly operated ServiceOntario outlets are barrier free, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005) does not require independent providers to install automated doors at their buildings. In an email to the Citizen, the ministry says it is exploring options so that accessibility concerns are proactively addressed in all ServiceOntario offices.
Why not just write the requirement into contracts with private operators as they come up? Or just inform them that the government wants the automated doors installed now as a sign of good faith for future contract negotiations.
In its email to Parisien, the ministry says Ontarios landmark legislation the first among the provinces recognizes that accessibility is important in making sure persons with disabilities have full access to every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. We are committed to ensuring that all our customers have appropriate access to the products and services we deliver.
For his part, Orléans ServiceOntario operator Denis Brault feels Parisiens reaction was a bit overblown. He says his premises is already equipped a number of accessibility features, including a depressed curb near the entrance for people in wheelchairs and scooters, a lower counter and accessible washrooms.
Brault says when people in wheelchairs, scooters or walkers arrive at his outlet, staff working near the entrance move quickly to open the door. And Brault says the outlet is often so busy that customers going in and out always hold the door open for those who require that help. Weve never had issues.
In Parisiens case, it was his mother who ended up holding the door open for him, but the federal public servant says that is beside the point. Parisien, who has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since he was 16 and has little flexibility or mobility in his joints, says he would welcome Brault to talk to him about accessibility for the disability.
Brault says one reason he opted for a non-automated door was due to concerns that an automated one opens and closes slowly, allowing more cold air during winter months to come inside.
But the good news is that Brault will eventually install an automated door. He wouldnt say when, but he acknowledges that though there had never been any problems until Parisien complained, an automated door would be more convenient for the disabled.