A recent incident at a Bradford restaurant regarding refusal of a service animal has stirred much debate amongst community members about the laws in place behind service animals and their training Oct. 6, 2021
By: Jackie Kozak
Members of the Accessibility Committee paid a visit to Golden Taste of Asia’s Ganesh Ponniah to help promote the new service dog stickers for business windows
The Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury recently launched a service animal sticker campaign, after an incident that occurred in August that resulted in a service animal being denied entry into a local restaurant.
The story stirred up much debate among community members on the laws behind service animals and their training.
In an ongoing effort to create more awareness about service animals, and in compliance with AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) standards, the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury recently approved the purchase of over 200 stickers that will be placed in storefront windows of local businesses, stating: “Service Animals Welcome”.
The town will also be preparing and handing out information pamphlets on service animals and accessibility for those with disabilities, in compliance with AODA standards. The funds for the stickers and pamphlets will come from the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) budget.
“We are looking to have compliance by the end of 2021,” shares Bradford’s Deputy Mayor James Leduc, Chair of the AAC. “(Local businesses) need to understand ‘any disability ‘ they need to accommodate because it’s becoming a large market, with more growth potentially coming.”
The owner of local restaurant Golden Taste of Asia, Ganesh Ponniah, refused entry to a local pastor and his service dog -Lily’ in August after claiming to be unfamiliar with the rules about service animals.
Since the incident, Ponniah has taken several initiatives to educate himself and his staff about the laws surrounding service animals and is working with the town to take extra measures to ensure the restaurant receives the proper training required to serve people with disabilities.
He admitted although English is not his first language and he is very limited with vocabulary, once he understood the gravity of the situation and the laws in place regarding service animals and people with disabilities, he immediately regretted all that had transpired and shared a formal apology with the community.
“I would like to humbly extend my earnest apologies to all those who have been affected by this incident,” he expressed through translation from his daughter, Trussha Ganeshalingam. “After being educated on the AODA, the significance of service animals and the challenges individuals of the disability community face everyday, we are committed to fostering and implementing positive, meaningful change within our business and the community.
“One of our numerous initiatives includes dedicating the entire month of October for free delicious meals to those who identify as members of the disability community and even dedicate a day for family members to enjoy a meal on us! We look forward to continue learning and growing with this community as a proud ally.
“We as a business and ally, acknowledge and appreciate differences and individualities of all members of society. We want to raise awareness to the lack of education and awareness regarding the AODA among businesses and are honoured to be an integral part of educating the community and setting a positive example going forward!”
The program is being administered by the town’s Accessibility Advisory Committee.
Stickers and handouts are available for businesses to pick up at the Library and the Town’s Administration Office at 100 Dissette Street, Unit7/8.
For more information, visit the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury’s accessibility page at https://www.townofbwg.com/accessibility?utm_source=bradfordtoday.ca&utm_campaign=bradfordtoday.ca%3A%20outbound&utm_medium=referral.
About the Author: Jackie Kozak
Jackie Kozak is a reporter/writer whose work appears on both BradfordToday and InnisfilToday