Terrasses accessibility in the Plateau – A victory for the rights of people with disabilities showing that Quebec must legislate barrier-free access
Montréal, March 6th 2012 – The Regroupement des activistes pour l’inclusion au Québec (RAPLIQ) is delighted that the regulation for terrasses in the Plateau was adopted by the Ferrandez administration last night at the borough council. Following the adoption of this new regulation, terrasses will have to be accessible in order to get a business permit for the 2012 season.
In 2009, many inaccessible terrasses were erected throughout the sidewalk of Mont-Royal Avenue making it impossible for people with disabilities using mobility aids, such as a wheelchair, to move around. These terraces also prevented people with visual limitations to independently use the sidewalks because the paths became filled with obstacles. In 2010, the Plateau Mont-Royal borough imposed a clearance of 1.8m to restore barrier-free access to the sidewalks. However, the borough also authorized the implementation of elevated terrasses without accessible ramps. RAPLIQ contacted the Ferrandez administration to denounce the situation. Plateau Mont-Royal defended its decision. Further, they claimed that the accessibility of many terrasses was difficult for technical reasons and that making them accessible was not a priority. In the spring of 2011, RAPLIQ had noted that some terrasses that were accessible in 2010 had become inaccessible. It was at this point that RAPLIQ decided to file a complaint to the Human Rights Commission in May of 2011.
Two months later, an agreement was signed between RAPLIQ, the Plateau Mont-Royal borough and the Société de développement commerciale de l’avenue du Mont-Royal (SDAMR). The agreement specified that terraces would be made accessible by the summer of 2012. Only three terraces out of 32 (Bar inc., Barraca and Zyng) were exempted from this agreement with RAPLIQ’s consent because of undue hardship. Four terrasses reserved for smokers have also been exempted. According to the architectural firm hired to conduct the accessibility plans, it would not have been possible to make those terrasses accessible.
RAPLIQ’s victory clearly shows that lack of architectural accessibility discriminates against people with disabilities and that all appropriate measures must be taken to eradicate this. The accomplishment made here follows similar victories, for example the recent victory by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities which legislated that Via Rail ensure access to its Renaissance train cars in 2007.
The lack of accessibility of various locations, such as our metro, is often justified by the historical context in which they were built. We are often told “Back then, we did not think of people with disabilities”. Inaccessible terrasses being built in 2011 clearly shows that, denying access to persons with disabilities is largely still socially accepted. RAPLIQ hopes that other boroughs will join the Sud-Ouest and Plateau-Mont-Royal boroughs by making the accessibility of terrasses mandatory.
The fact that RAPLIQ had to resort to the Human Rights Commission to end this form of discrimination is also alarming. It shows the inefficiency of Quebec’s legislation regarding accessibility for people with disabilities, as well as, the profound misunderstanding of discrimination based on disability from various political and economic players.
“Our neighbours to the south have a law that orders accessibility at many levels. Ontario has also adopted an accessibility law that aims for the province to be fully accessible by 2025. What is happening in Quebec? People with disabilities should not have to battle over every and every obstacle encountered. The days of empty policies are over. Architectural inaccessibility is ubiquitous and goes well beyond Plateau’s terrasses. Quebec must act now to respect the rights of all its citizens, as well as, its international obligations,” states Linda Gauthier, RAPLIQ president.
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