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Media Reports that a Guelph Children’s Play Centre Refused to Accommodate A Child with Cerebral Palsy

Another Illustration of How Far Ontario Still Must Go to Be the World Leader on Accessibility that the Wynne Government Claims We Have Become

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities

April 1, 2015


1. Reports of Another Denial of Accessibility in Ontario

Is Ontario the global leader on accessibility for people with disabilities that the Wynne Government claims we are? In the past three days, the Guelph Mercury, CTV, CBC, and the National Post have all reported on a deeply disturbing incident in Guelph Ontario. These reports are set out below.

According to these news reports, a father recently took his young daughter to play at a play centre where she had played in the past with no problem. Yet this time, she was refused. According to these reports, the child needs to wear her shoes to support her leg braces. Yet the play centre insisted that children must only wear socks, and not shoes, according to media reports.

In the wake of coverage in the mainstream media and social media, the play centre reportedly apologized, and has found an accommodation that it would accept. That accommodation, simply wearing shoe coverings, appears to have been an obvious one that should have been offered on the spot.

The family has had to resort to filing a human rights complaint against the play centre. Before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, the family must find its own lawyer, investigate its own case, and then present its case against the play centre. In 2006, the Ontario Government took away from the Ontario Human Rights Commission its decades-old job of publicly investigating and, where appropriate, publicly prosecuting individual human rights cases like this.

2. The Bigger Picture What this Incident Means for Ontarians with Disabilities

This Guelph incident came to our attention via the media coverage that the family secured, and because the family contacted us on line. The Guelph Mercurys April 1, 2015 article quoted the AODA Alliance. It reported:

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said this is not an isolated incident but one example of a systemic problem.

His group was instrumental in getting accessibility legislation passed 10 years ago.

“Now, we’re leading the fight to implement it,” he said.

“This incident illustrates how so many unfair barriers that Ontarians with disabilities face are so easy to fix, at little or no cost. It also shows that Ontario is not the world leader on accessibility for people with disabilities that the Ontario government claims.”

Lepofsky said having a universal law was supposed to mean that people with complaints would not have to file separate actions with the human rights tribunal. But because there is no or little enforcement, people continue to fight these battles on their own.

“From 1994 to 2005, we fought for this law,” he said. “People with disabilities should not have to fight these barriers alone.”

The Government continues to break its promise to effectively enforce the AODA. As we made public in recent weeks, the Government is now cutting back on its already-paltry enforcement, even though it knows of rampant violations of its regulations on accessible Customer Service. The Government told us it is reducing the number of obligated organizations to be audited from 2,000 in 2014 to a mere 1,200 this year. Yet the Government has recently denied that it is reducing the AODAs enforcement.

A Government-appointed Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) conducted by University of Torontos Prof. Mayo Moran reached the damning conclusion that after ten years, the Disabilities Act has not made a significant difference in the lives of Ontarians with disabilities. This Guelph incident illustrates that point in such painful human terms.

We need the Government to now let us know what it plans to do to implement the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review. For example, the Government should now step up enforcement of the Disabilities Act, and not cut it back, to prevent incidents like this from happening again.

3. What You Can Do

We are all indebted to this family for courageously standing their ground, and for taking their story to social media and to the mainstream media, rather than giving in. their tenacity shows how much of a difference a person or family can make at the grassroots, even if they have never heard of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

You too can help! Join the ranks of others who have brought denials of accessibility to people with disabilities to public attention. If you encounter an accessibility barrier, we encourage you to:

* approach the organization to ask them to fix it.

* Report any violations of the AODA to the Governments toll-free number for the public to report AODA violations to the Government. 1-866-515-2025. TTY: 1-800-268-7095

* Let your local media know about the barrier. As our recent AODA Alliance Updates show, the media across Ontario is more interested than ever in reporting on these issues. You may wish to invite the media to also contact the AODA Alliance to comment on the bigger picture of our campaign for accessibility in Ontario. This is what we did, for example, in the April 1, 2015 report in the Guelph Mercury.

* Use social media like Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about your experience.

If you tweet about it, be sure to put #accessibility (the word accessibility with the # right before it, and with no space in between) in your tweet. That will ensure that Twitter users all around the world who are interested in accessibility issues will see it and can re-tweet it to their followers.

* If you have a smart phone, use it on the spot to record an incident on video, or just to take pictures of the incident. These can be helpful for the mainstream media and can be shared quickly across social media. Post the video or photos on line. Services like YouTube are free. Once you post a video on YouTube, you can easily send others a link to it, so they can watch the video.

* Let us know about the incident, and about your efforts to report it to the Government and to the media. Contact us at

We cannot investigate such incidents ourselves, since we are a volunteer grassroots coalition. However, as we have done in several recent instances, we can help circulate media reports and tweets about the issue, and can help give the media background on our long campaign to make Ontario accessible to all people with disabilities.

4. What You Can Read Below in the Rest of this Update

Below please find news reports on this issue that appeared as follows:

* CBC March 29, 2015

* CTV March 30, 2015

* the Guelph Mercury March 31, 2015

* the National Post March 31, 2015 and

* the Guelph Mercury April 1, 2015

The Ontario Government only has 9 years, 9 months and 29 days left to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires.

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CBC On-Line March 29 2015

Originally posted at:

Guelph girl with cerebral palsy denied access to jungle gym due to ankle braces By Jane van Koeverden, CBC News
PHOTO: The Dupuis family, from L to R: Tracy, Lucy (6), Eloise (4) and Matthew. (Submitted by Matthew Dupuis)

A Guelph family is planning to file a complaint with the Ontario human rights tribunal against a local indoor playground called Funmazing Playcentre after their 4-year-old daughter Eloise, who has cerebral palsy, was denied access to an indoor jungle gym due to the supportive ankle braces and shoes she wears.

Matthew Dupuis took his daughter to Funmazing Playcentre at 785 Imperial Road North in Guelph on Saturday afternoon, where he said he was told by a woman who said she was the owner that Eloise could not climb on the 3-storey padded vinyl jungle gym with her shoes on. He was told the indoor equipment requires socks only, due to wear and tear that shoes can cause.

Dupuis told the woman that Eloise had previously been allowed to climb the equipment and that it was the main reason they had come. Eloises ankle foot orthotics is made specifically for her to aid with tension in her muscles caused by cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects motor function.

Dupuis said he was told that previous instances where Eloise was allowed to keep her shoes on were a “mistake” but that she could still use the rest of the facility.

“I’m not going to let her run around [the] large area and tell her, you can’t do what all the other kids are doing and climb on the structure,” said Dupuis.

“I was frustrated. I was somewhat embarrassed that I had to like have this conversation and argue with her about why this was a new rule, or why the rule had changed.”

Dupuis left building with his daughter, who asked him why they were leaving. Wanting to protect her feelings, Dupuis told Eloise that it was too busy, which led her to break down in tears. Fighting back tears of his own, Dupuis took Eloise to Bingemans FunworX in Kitchener, where she had access to all equipment.

On the drive to Kitchener, Dupuis called his wife Tracy to tell her what happened. Tracy immediately phoned Funmazing Playcentre to speak with the owner.

“I was furious. I was very very angry. I just thought this is outrageous. We’ve been there several times in the past, why is it different now?” said Tracy.

“[The owner] said that she was sorry, but unfortunately she can’t have that on her play structure.”

The Dupuis family believe Eloise was discriminated against due to her disability and plan on filing a complaint with the human rights tribunal.

“[We?re] hoping that they will definitely change their policies and procedures and allow anybody with a disability or any assistive devices on their equipment, it shouldnt be a question, said Tracy. Our daughter and anybody else in that situation should be allowed, just like any other child would be.

Socks-only is safety policy, says facility

In a statement sent by email to CBC News, Gio Salgo, owner of Funmazing Playcentre wrote, “Every single indoor playground that we know of requires a ‘socks-only’ environment, for two reasons. We want to ensure that other children aren’t injured by contact. But more importantly, we do that to ensure that a child doesn’t get caught and injure themselves sliding around on the equipment.”

Salgo said the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in the United Kingdom advocates for a “socks-only” environment, which Salgo says is the standard across the industry.

Salgo added that she empathizes with the Dupuis family, and has reached out to KidsAbility, an organization that provides rehabilitation and accessibility services, as well as the playground manufacturer to “find a solution.”

“If theres a solution that can be developed, we hope to be able to present it to everyone in the indoor play-structure community,” said Salgo.

After reading the statement the Dupuis family said the response “reads like more excuses.”

“Funmazing is still not accepting any responsibility to be accessible and we feel they are now making this an issue regarding concern for other patrons safety, when initially the owner was concerned over the wear and tear of the play structure,” wrote the Dupuis family in an email to CBC News.

“We will leave it to the Human Rights Commission to investigate if they are compliant with the accessibility laws of Ontario.”

Social media backlash

Dupuis wrote about his experience on his Facebook page, which was quickly shared by thousands of people and spread to Twitter.

An unofficial Funmazing Playcentre Facebook page has more than 400 1-star reviews, the lowest rating allowed. Only the most recent 182 are currently visible and all have been posted over the last day. Most reviews were accompanied by comments shaming the company for what happened.

As of Sunday evening, the Funmazing Playcentres official Facebook page had been taken down.

CTV News On-Line March 30 2015

Originally posted at:

Socks-only playground policy angers family of girl with cerebral palsy Staff
Published Monday, March 30, 2015

The parents of a four-year-old girl with cerebral palsy are planning to file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal after being told by a local indoor playground that their daughter could not use the space because she would violate their “socks only” policy.

Abigail Eloise Dupuis uses braces with running shoes to help with her mobility. She and her family have visited the Funmazing Playcentre in Guelph many times, but on Saturday, they were told by staff that Eloise would not be allowed to play on the main play structure unless she was only wearing socks.

Dupuis needs to wear her indoor shoes to hold her ankle and leg braces, but Funmazing say their socks-only rule applies to all kids.

Eloise’s father, Matt Dupuis, told the playground staff that wasn’t acceptable, and that excluding Eloise from the play structure would leave her feeling isolated. They decided to go to another indoor playground instead, where they were allowed in without incident.

But Dupuis was still angry and posted about their experience on Facebook a post that has been shared more than 4,500 times.

Eloise’s mother, Tracy Dupuis, says she’s glad to see that others are as upset as she is.

“I’m glad that the word is getting out there,” she told CTV Kitchener. “I don’t think that, in 2015, that this is acceptable behaviour to businesses, especially to turn away a little girl that we wanted to go and play.”

Funmazing was quick to release a public statement defending its policy. The facility says that the centre has always accommodated children with disabilities, and that Eloise was never denied entrance to their play area. But they say their policy against wearing shoes on the structures is one about safety.

“We always have to act in the interest of safety. Not just the safety of his daughter, but the safety of everyone,” they wrote on their own Facebook page.

The play centre says is it an industry-wide rule that play structures be socks-only. What’s more, they write, the manufacturer of the play structure recommends its structures be used only with socks.

“We are consulting with the play structure manufacturer to review the safety concerns of using shoes within the play structure, as they recommend it only be accessed with socks,” they write.

The play centre also says it’s also consulting with KidsAbility, an organization that advocates for children with disabilities, which they say regularly refers children with disabilities to their facility.

“We have reached out to both KidsAbility and the play structure manufacturer. Our sincere hope is that by working together, we can come up with a long-term solution for all children,” they write.

The Dupuis family, meanwhile, says it seems to them this incident may be covered by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and they are considering filing a formal complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

Eloise’s dad, Matt Dupuis, says he’s touched that so many people are responding to their story.

“I was feeling very sad after what transpired. So just to have all that support of the last 24 hours made me feel a lot better and not alone,” he said.

With a report from CTV Kitchener’s Nadia Matos

Guelph Mercury March 31 2015

Originally posted at:

Guelph Funmazing apologizes for weekend incident with girl with disability Guelph Mercury
By Joanne Shuttleworth

GUELPH A children’s indoor play centre in Guelph has issued an apology to the public and the family involved in the wake of public outcry after an incident that occurred at the centre on Saturday.

Matthew Dupuis said he took his four-year-old girl daughter Eloise to the Guelph Funmazing Play Centre on Saturday as he had done a dozen times before, but this time he was told Eloise couldn’t play on the climbing structure unless she removed her shoes.

The standing rule at Funmazing is that shoes aren’t allowed on the play structure, just socks. But Eloise has cerebral palsy and needs to wear her shoes and ankle braces to move around. Matthew said in the past staff at the facility has always allowed an exception for Eloise.

But on Saturday the Dupuis were told Eloise could keep her shoes on for some of the activities, but not the play structure.

Outraged, Matthew and Eloise went to a centre in Kitchener instead. Meanwhile Tracy Dupuis, Eloise’s mother, contacted the facility and wasn’t pleased with what she heard.

She said accommodation for people with disabilities should be covered by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and she intended to take action.

The story gained considerable traction on social media with the family gaining support and the business garnering criticism.

On Monday, Gio Salgo, owner of Funmazing, posted an apology on its website and said she also reached out to the Dupuis family to apologize directly to them.

In a subsequent phone interview, Salgo said she had contacted the manufacturer of the play structure, who still advises that no shoes be worn on this structure.

“Rubber soles can get caught on the slide that’s the problem,” Salgo said. “Children could fall or get caught up on the slide or hurt other children.”

She said she spoke with staff at KidsAbility and they landed on a solution a bootie to fit over shoes so rubber soles are not exposed.

“That gives a better surface,” Salgo said. “We’re working very hard to do things right.”

She said the reaction on social media to the original incident was overwhelming and she wants people to know she never intended harm or insult. She said she hopes the family will accept her apology and understand that children of every ability are welcome at the centre.

Here’s the apology posted on the Guelph Funmazing Play Centre’s facebook page:

“We would like to sincerely apologize to the Dupuis family, and especially Eloise for the incident that occurred this past Saturday. As parents ourselves, we can only imagine how angry they must have felt. There is no stronger desire than the desire to do right for our children. We have reached out to them privately in order to express our apologies.

“To the community at large thank you for taking the time to let us know where we failed. We have read your comments, and we hear you. We know you’re upset and we don’t blame you. Please let us apologize to you, too

“Since we created this business, our main priority has been to make sure that everyone who visits the facility goes away safe and happy, and can’t wait to return. In this case we failed to deliver on this and we are very sorry

“As we have informed the Dupuis family, we are committed to find a solution so this doesn’t happen again. Together with the help of KidsAbility and the play structure manufacturer, we will be able to accommodate the use of shoes for all special needs individuals in the entire facility. We will provide a shoe-cover system in order to provide the appropriate surface that would allow a smooth and safe descent down our slides.

“Once again, we offer our deepest apologies to all those who were hurt and offended by what happened.

“We view this as a learning experience, and look forward to creating a more inclusive environment in the future.”

The National Post March 31 2015

Originally posted at:

Parents file human rights complaint after girl with leg braces barred from jungle gym over no-shoes rule Emma Dillabough, National Post Staff

GUELPH, Ont. The parents of a four-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who must wear shoes have filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal after she was denied access to a climbing structure at an indoor playground with a socks-only policy.

When Eloise Dupuis, who must wear leg braces inside running shoes for stability and mobility, arrived Saturday with her father, Matthew, to play, they were refused use of a climbing structure that Eloise had used during previous visits. A worker at Funmazing told them there was a strict socks-only policy that applied to all children.

When Mr. Dupuis later complained to owner Gio Salgo, he was told she did not want shoes on her equipment because it would cause damage.

[The main structure] is really the main feature of Funmazing, Mr. Dupuis said. The woman said that shoes were not allowed on the structure because of the wear and tear they cause to it.

I thought it was unbelievable, he said.

Ms. Salgo said she offered Eloise a chance to play with other equipment an offer Mr. Dupuis confirmed but that the manufacturer of the climbing structure recommended only socks be worn because rubber soles can catch on a plastic slide and cause injury.

Ms. Salgo said she feared children colliding with each other on the structure and injuring themselves.

That was not the issue that she told us when we were there, Mr. Dupuis said. She told us that it was wear and tear on the structure and I dont buy that anyways because how many public parks that any kid can visit unsupervised have slides and kids wear their running shoes and they all make it down that slide fine.

The plastic on her indoor slide is not that much different than the plastic on the outdoor slide, he said.

^The Guelph Mercury April 1, 2015

Originally posted at Parents file complaint against Guelph Funmazing

Not satisfied with a public apology from Guelph Funmazing Play Centre, a Guelph family has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal.

Tracy Dupuis said she and her husband, Matthew, filed a complaint with the tribunal on Monday.

“It was before the public apology was posted and I understand they are making changes at Funmazing. But the tribunal will encourage and enforce that they comply (with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act). Clearly, there still needs to be training around accessibility and inclusion,” Dupuis said in a phone interview.

On Saturday, Matthew took their four-year-old daughter Eloise to Guelph Funmazing Play Centre, a privately owned indoor play facility. Eloise has cerebral palsy and needs special shoes and ankle braces to help her mobility. The exercise on the padded structures is good for her and safer for her than playing on an outdoor structure, her parents say.

Although there is a no-shoes rule at Funmazing, Matthew said Eloise has always been allowed to keep her shoes on, especially in the climbing structure, which is her favourite. But on Saturday, Matthew was told Eloise could keep her shoes on for some activities, but not the climbing structure.

The Dupuis wrote about the incident on Facebook and Twitter and the story spread like wildfire.

On Monday, Funmazing posted a public apology on its Facebook page.

In an interview, owner Gio Salgo said she worked with KidsAbility to find a solution. Funmazing will now provide booties for children who have to keep their shoes on while they play.

“We want to make it inclusive,” Salgo said, in the posting. “We are working very hard to do things right.”

“We’ve never encountered discrimination before,” Tracy said. “That’s why we had such a strong reaction. Now we want to break down barriers for Eloise.”

The human rights tribunal can be a lengthy process. Tracy said they are not looking to be punitive or seeking a financial settlement.

“This has opened doors to the conversation and that’s the silver lining,” she said. “The company was not aware of the rules and they definitely should be. All companies should be.”

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said this is not an isolated incident but one example of a systemic problem.

His group was instrumental in getting accessibility legislation passed 10 years ago.

“Now, we’re leading the fight to implement it,” he said.

“This incident illustrates how so many unfair barriers that Ontarians with disabilities face are so easy to fix, at little or no cost. It also shows that Ontario is not the world leader on accessibility for people with disabilities that the Ontario government claims.”

Lepofsky said having a universal law was supposed to mean that people with complaints would not have to file separate actions with the human rights tribunal. But because there is no or little enforcement, people continue to fight these battles on their own.

“From 1994 to 2005, we fought for this law,” he said. “People with disabilities should not have to fight these barriers alone.”

On their own Facebook page, the Dupuis family says it’s grateful for the support and stronger because of it:

“We are gratified to have received a formal apology this evening from the owner of Funmazing Playcentre. She sincerely expressed her regret, offered possible solutions and has reached out to accessibility experts in the community. We commend her on this. Thank you!

“Moving forward we will continue to speak out about accessibility and inclusion for Eloise and for all children, whenever we can. We believe this is what is most important – starting the conversations and making positive changes for the future, so all kids can play.”

Attempts to reach Guelph Funmazing for comment on Tuesday were not immediately successful.