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A Prisoner in Her Own Home

By Linda Crabtree, The Standard
Friday, September 29, 2017

In 2008, when Sandra Groves moved into her Roehampton Avenue apartment she was walking. Now, nine years later, due to multiple health issues including a balance and muscle condition, she uses an electric wheelchair to get around if she can get out of her building.

When she first applied for a wheelchair, two barriers presented themselves: the first was a three-inch drop from the buildings outer door to the sidewalk; the second were the doors themselves an exterior and interior security door, too heavy for a 70-year-old woman with considerable muscle atrophy to manage alone.

Sandra asked management to accommodate her needs by building up the entrance to do away with that 3 lip and put in push button doors so she could come and go as needed. When she applied to the governments assistive devices program (ADP) for a wheelchair, she was required to hire an occupational therapist who refused her due to the dangers present at the buildings entrance. Another OT took a second look and acknowledged the dangers but okayed a wheelchair as long as Sandra had an attendant present. Her daughter lived with her then and could help. She now goes to school and works and Sandra no longer has her assistance. Both OTs recommended push button doors. The answer about the doors from management was no. That was in 2015.

This March, Sandra decided to take her plight to the Landlord and Tenant Board. She tried to get all her ducks in a row, received legal aid and had ready the OT reports. Unfortunately, Sandras case was dismissed without prejudice because she was told forms were not filled out properly. Sandra said that management also made the case that because the building was built (1979) before access was mandated by the Ontario Building Code (1986), the building was grandfathered and they were not legally required to do anything.

A call to City Hall told me that this was beyond their jurisdiction and a private matter between Sandra and building management.

And then, just this past June, the three-inch lip was ramped. There was already a curb cut into the building, but why a curb cut if those who own it didnt expect people pushing strollers and bundle buggies from the plaza around the corner and tenants using mobility devices to come and go? However, the doors remain and every time Sandra wants to enter or exit the building she has to either call a friend in the building to open the doors for her or rely on Paratransit or taxi drivers. Forget about just wanting to take herself and her tiny dog, Dude, out for some fresh air.

I feel trapped, frustrated, angry and a prisoner in my own home, she said. I also feel disrespected by head office who sends the message that they only care about money and not the senior or disabled tenants here. People say I should move. Its not that easy as rents are above what seniors on pensions can afford. I pay just over $800, which isnt geared to my income. If I can find an accessible place, rent would be over $1,000, leaving me with no cushion for emergencies and due to a double colostomy situation, extensive medical supplies.

The cost for those doors? The people at Horton Automatics estimated $4,200 plus HST for both and approximately $500 or $600 per door for electrical work.

With a growing senior population, youd think it just makes sense for residential building owners to be proactive if they want to keep their tenants and let them age in place.

Angela Browne, a paralegal known for her work on disability issues remarked, This is particularly unfair and an unabashed attack on a person with a disability who not only has the right to uninterrupted, private and peaceful enjoyment of the rented premises in which she lives, she also has the right, according to human rights standards, to expect the same as others equal access to the building itself.

My calls to management were not returned.

The next step for Sandra is to file with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Shes tried everything else.

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