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Commentary: Accessibility One Door At A Time

by Linda Saxon
February 26, 2014

I am ambivalent about the recent Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario decision that both the landlord and tenant violated my right to equal treatment with respect to services and facilities without discrimination because of disability.

Following surgery on my left hand and wrist due to severe rheumatoid arthritis in 2010, it was difficult and/or impossible to open the door to the physiotherapy clinic I attended. I raised the issue with the clinic owner, a tenant in a strip mall, who suggested I contact the landlord, as it was his responsibility.

In a letter to the landlord, I requested an automated door to the clinic entrance and, after receiving no response from him, sent a second letter a month later and a third letter a month after that. The landlord finally replied and referred me to the tenant “which would have the primary responsibility for dealing with requests by its customers.”

Eleven months later, I filed an HRTO application and named the landlord as a corporate and personal Respondent because I believed it was his responsibility; in response to the application, the landlord implicated the tenant as a Respondent.

Mediation was unsuccessful and a two-day hearing was held in September 2013. In preparation of the hearing, the only decisions I found regarding access pertained to the landlord and tenant being one and the same.

As pleased as I am with the February 20, 2014 decision, it is disheartening that I continue to encounter defiant attitudinal barriers and have to resort to fighting to remove the architectural barriers one at a time.

This is the second building in the Town of Amherstburg that will have been made accessible to me, but only as a result of my human rights applications.

I filed my first complaint after a decade-long battle with the town to make the public library accessible and, with the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s assistance, was triumphant; since 2004 the historic Carnegie building has an elevator and two accessible parking spaces.

However, my victories have not helped me with the doors that I struggle to open at the dentist, hair stylist, and flower shop to name just a few.
So, in 2004, an elevator was installed; in 2014, a door will be installed – at this rate, how will this province become accessible by 2025?