Anjan Manikumar’s efforts to make his restaurant more accessible have resulted in a notice of violation from the city.
By: Sadiya Ansari Staff Reporter, Published on Thu Nov 27 2014
When Anjan Manikumar opened Signs, a deaf-friendly restaurant, he wanted it to be accessible in more ways than one.
But his efforts to put in a ramp outside his restaurant at Yonge and Wellesley Sts. resulted in a notice of violation from the city just two weeks after it was installed.
The 29-year-old said he got frustrated after trying to work with the city since April, so decided to install a temporary ramp.
“It’s not fair that we are excluding some people just because we are not able to get a permit,” Manikumar said.
He said the city wouldn’t even take his application to build a permanent ramp and he believed he wouldn’t need a permit for a temporary ramp. So he worked with StopGap, an organization that helps build low-cost ramps, to install one at a cost of $4,700.
The ramp was ordered to be removed immediately on Thursday because it “poses a hazard to pedestrians and people with visual disabilities,” said Kyp Perikleous, director of transportation services at the City of Toronto.
“When something creates an immediate hazard, we do not give a buffer. We ask for immediate compliance,” said Perikleous.
Not complying with the city can mean a fine of up to $5,000.
This type of violation is unusual, with only one or two similar issues faced this year, said Perikleous. And there seems to be little room for compromise.
“We usually do not accommodate obstructions to a sidewalk,” he said.
The policy is strict because according to Ontario’s accessibility law, the city has to provide 2.1 metres width on a sidewalk and a busy pedestrian street like Yonge St. can require more, said Perikleous.
Manikumar says he’s been monitoring pedestrian traffic and that “there’s no problem with the walking space.”
He says a simple solution that would create even more space on the sidewalk is moving a mailbox across the ramp a little further up the street. Manikumar said in earlier discussions with the city, there was a willingness to explore this but nothing has happened since.
The width left for pedestrian traffic from the ramp to the mailbox is just 2 centimetres short of the 2.1 metre requirement. The ramp encroaches about 72 centimetres onto city property, according to a Star measurement.
There is a way to legally encroach on city property, but Manikumar would have to make an application to the city’s community council, said Perikleous. But before he can do that, he has to prove he has no other choice.
“The owners or the tenants of the property need to show they have tried to do everything in their means to provide ramping facilities within their property,” Perikleous said.
He added that many people don’t want to make accommodations within the existing property because it usually costs much more money.
Manikumar says he’s not concerned about the cost because he sees making his restaurant accessible as an investment.
“A lot of our guests have demanded a ramp,” he said.
But Manikumar is a tenant and says his landlord doesn’t want him to make any permanent changes to the property. He’s looked at many different options, including installing a $50,000 wheelchair lift. But even that would encroach on city property, he said.
Both supporters and those urging the restaurant to go through the city process voiced their opinions after the notice of violation was posted to the restaurant’s Facebook page.
A woman passing by the restaurant Thursday evening said she saw the Facebook post and that “there’s more than enough space” for pedestrians to get through.
“The restaurant wants to include everybody and I think everybody should do that,” said Tammy Penasse.
“For the city to say that’s wrong I think that’s wrong.”
Manikumar said won’t be taking down the ramp until he can work out an alternative with the city, saying he will “fight for what is right.”