Moving towards barrier-free services: Final report on the restaurant accessibility initiative

July 2006

Introduction

For the past five years, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (“the OHRC”) has been working closely with the restaurant industry to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities, older individuals, and families with young children. This is the OHRC’s final public report on this initiative.

Persons with disabilities have a right, under the Ontario Human Rights Code (“the Code”) to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities. This means that they have the right to access premises and services in the same manner as others, with dignity and without impediment. Despite this right, persons with disabilities continue to face daily obstacles in going about their lives, including when they are accessing restaurant services. The OHRC has hoped that, through this initiative, significant change could be effected in the accessibility of the restaurant industry, and a model could be developed for promoting change in other industries.

The purpose of this Report is to:

  • Fulfil the commitment the OHRC made in its previous report on this initiative, Dining Out Accessibly, to report back on the status of activities and advancements respecting restaurant accessibility;
  • Recognize advancements towards full accessibility and showcase best practices in the restaurant industry;
  • Point the way for continued advancement towards full accessibility in the restaurant industry.
ISBN/ISSN: 
PRINT: 1-4249-1438-8 | HTML: 1-4249-1439-6 | PDF: 1-4249-1440-X
Code Grounds: 
Social Areas: 
Resource Type: 

The Code, Disability, and Accessibility

The Code has prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability for over 20 years. Persons with disabilities have the right to equal treatment in accessing services such as those provided by restaurants, shops, hotels, movie theatres and other public places. Businesses have an obligation to make their facilities accessible. A failure to provide persons with disabilities with equal access to a facility or equal treatment in a service would constitute discrimination under the Code and can be the subject of the human rights complaint to the OHRC. A restaurant would have to demonstrate as a defence to such discrimination that providing access or accommodating services would amount to undue hardship with regard to cost, outside sources of funding, or health and safety.

The OHRC’s Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate (“the Policy”) makes it clear that services and facilities must be built or adapted to accommodate individuals with disabilities in a way that promotes their integration and full participation. When constructing new buildings, undertaking renovations, setting up new policies and procedures, and offering new services, design choices should be made that do not create barriers for persons with disabilities. Where barriers exist, whether physical, attitudinal or systemic, organizations should actively identify and remove them. Where immediate barrier removal would cause undue hardship, interim or next-best measures should be put in place until more ideal solutions can be attained or phased-in, where possible.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and the Building Code

With the recent passage of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act[1] (“the AODA”), accessibility issues in Ontario are now governed by three pieces of complementary legislation: the Code, the AODA, and the Ontario Building Code (“OBC”).

The AODA replaces the previous Ontarians with Disabilities Act and is expected to spur significant advances in the accessibility of Ontario’s goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises. As the OHRC, among many others, had advocated for a number of years, the AODA creates a positive mechanism for developing and implementing accessibility standards in both the public and the private sectors. [2] The AODA sets out a process for the development of accessibility standards for specific industries, economic sectors, or classes or persons or organizations. Standards development committees will be established, consisting of persons with disabilities, industry or sector representatives, and representatives of relevant government ministries. These committees will determine long-term accessibility objectives to be achieved by January 1, 2025, and the measures required to meet these objectives. The committees will develop plans for progressive implementation of measures to meet the long-term objectives.

The committees will also develop initial proposed standards, which will set out measures, policies, practices and requirements for the identification and removal of barriers. The proposed standards will be made public, and the public will have the opportunity to submit comments. The finalized standards will then be established by regulations. Objectives, proposed measures, and standards will be reviewed every five years.

An Accessibility Standards Advisory Council will be established to advise the Minister on matters related to the AODA. The majority of the members of the Council must be persons with disabilities. The Accessibility Directorate under the Ministry of Community and Social Services will have the responsibility for advising on the establishment and composition of the standards committees, providing training materials and guidelines for members of the standards committees, examining and reviewing the standards, advising on accessibility reports, and consulting with persons and organizations who have reporting obligations under the Act. The Directorate will make an annual report on the implementation and effectiveness of the Act.

The AODA does not supersede the Code. The AODA states that nothing in it diminishes the legal obligations of the Government or any other person or organization with respect to persons with disabilities that are imposed by law, and that where the AODA or an accessibility standard conflicts with another Act or regulation, the provision providing the highest level of accessibility shall prevail. That is, organizations that provide services, facilities, housing or employment will continue to be required to accommodate persons with disabilities to the point of undue hardship. The AODA does not create a new complaint mechanism for individuals who encounter barriers to accessibility. Persons with disabilities who encounter barriers to services, facilities, housing or employment will continue to be able to file complaints under the Code, and the Code remains the key enforcement mechanism for individuals with disabilities. The OHRC will continue to have a broad mandate, and a vital role to play, in ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities in the province of Ontario.

However, insofar as the Accessibility Directorate will be overseeing the development of accessibility standards and plans, there is an opportunity for the OHRC to re-focus its efforts. For example, rather than taking on sector-specific initiatives encouraging the identification of barriers and the development of plans as it has done with the transit and restaurant sectors, the OHRC may focus its resources on addressing the source causes of inaccessibility. As well, while the OHRC will continue to take an active role in promoting accessibility, it will also be able to place greater emphasis on other issues affecting the disability community.

The OBC sets minimum standards for the construction of buildings, including standards related to accessibility issues. The OHRC has, for a number of years, identified deficiencies with the OBC’s barrier-free requirements that are hindering the development of an accessible built environment. For example,

  • the barrier-free provisions of the OBC emphasize mobility-related disabilities, and provide insufficient guidance on non-mobility-related issues;
  • the provisions regarding upkeep and renovation require accessibility improvements only in limited circumstances; and
  • compliance with the technical requirements of the OBC does not necessarily result in substantive equality for users with disabilities.

A comprehensive discussion of the OHRC’s concerns regarding the OBC is set out in its submissions to the 2002 public consultations on building code reform. [3]

The Code has primacy over the OBC, and human rights tribunals have affirmed that compliance with the OBC is no defence to a complaint of discrimination under the Human Rights Code. [4] However, it is the experience of the OHRC that many businesses, even large and sophisticated ones, are under the incorrect impression that by complying with the OBC they are meeting all of their legal obligations. As a result, the barrier-free provisions of the OBC may have the unintended effect of reinforcing existing barriers for persons with disabilities. Indeed, many business owners have expressed to us frustration regarding the confusion caused by the discrepancies between the requirements of the OBC and the Human Rights Code.

The OHRC has publicly expressed its concerns regarding the accessibility provisions of the OBC on a number of occasions over the years, including in its report on age discrimination, A Time For Action; the 2002 submissions on the OBC; the earlier report on accessibility in the restaurant industry, Dining Out Accessibly; and the submissions on strengthening the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. In December 2005, the OHRC wrote to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, reiterating its concerns with the OBC.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has very recently announced amendments to the accessibility provisions of the OBC. The OHRC will review these amendments in light of its previously expressed concerns. The OHRC believes that it is essential that any reform to the OBC bring the provisions of the OBC into harmony with those of the Code and would welcome the opportunity to assist the Ministry in this regard, in keeping with the OHRC’s broad mandate under section 29 of the Code.


[1] S.O. 2005, c. 11. The AODA received Royal Assent and came into force on June 13, 2005
[2] See, for example, the OHRC’s Submission of the OHRC Regarding Consultations to Strengthen the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, March 31, 2005, www.ohrc.on.ca.
[3]Submission of the Ontario Human Rights Commission Concerning Barrier-Free Access Requirements in the Ontario Building Code, March 2002, www.ohrc.on.ca.
[4]Quesnel v. London Educational Health Centre, (1995), 28 C.H.R.R. D/474 (Ont. Bd. Inq.)

The OHRC’s Restaurant Accessibility Initiative

Following the launch of the Policy in March 2001, the OHRC initiated an inquiry under section 29 of the Code into accessibility in the restaurant industry. The objectives of the inquiry were to:

  • To increase awareness and report back to restaurant industry leaders and the general public on the nature of existing barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from accessing restaurants in their community.
  • To work cooperatively with restaurant industry leaders and seek their commitment to voluntarily take steps to identify, remove and prevent barriers and accommodate the needs of customers with disabilities in order to meet their obligations under the Code.

Restaurant Survey

At that time, the OHRC wrote to 29 major restaurant chains requesting information regarding the standards and objectives set for achieving accessibility, and the current level of accessibility in their premises. As well, the OHRC asked how the accessibility of franchised premises was monitored and if this was a part of franchise agreements. Despite a follow-up letter in September 2001, many of the chains failed to respond. As well, when the OHRC reviewed the responses it did receive, it became clear that restaurant chains were setting their standards for accessibility based only on the OBC that was in effect at the time of construction or renovation. It was learned that, for the most part, neither the Code, nor the Policy, nor other available barrier-free design standards were being considered in setting standards for accessibility in restaurants. This has also been the OHRC’s own observation based on inquiries received and complaints filed regarding this issue.

Accessibility Audit

In August 2002, the OHRC engaged an expert consultant on disability issues and barrier-free design to conduct an accessibility audit. The audit focussed on the physical premises and services of seven select restaurant chains of the original 29 restaurants contact. These chains were: McDonald’s, Country Style Donuts, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Subway, Swiss Chalet and Tim Horton’s. Four locations were audited for each chain, totalling 28 locations across the province.

Completely inaccessible locations were avoided so that the auditors who use wheelchairs could access the premises to complete the balance of the accessibility audit.

A checklist was developed to identify critical accessibility indicators for different disabilities that would provide a quick, reliable and accurate assessment of restaurant facilities based on criteria from CSA Standard B651-M95 “Barrier Free Design” and with the OBC. It was applied only to the public areas of the restaurants audited and did not include areas used only by employees. Persons with disabilities conducted the assessment of sites.

A detailed summary of the results of the audit is set out in the OHRC’s publication, Dining Out Accessibly. Although the locations varied widely in accessibility, all of the restaurant chains audited revealed some accessibility issues. These included

  • lack of an obvious and safe pedestrian route into the facility;
  • inadequate accessible parking spaces;
  • entrance doors that are too narrow, don’t open fully or don’t have automatic door openers;
  • entrances approached by steps or with high thresholds;
  • lack of well-contrasted signage, menu boards and menus;
  • inadequate interior routes and maneuvering space for persons using wheelchairs;
  • inaccessible washrooms; and
  • high takeout or self-serve counters.

These results were shared with each of the seven chains in June 2003 to ascertain their plans and seek their commitments for achieving and ensuring accessibility in the future.

Accessibility Commitments

During the fall of 2003, the OHRC met with each of the seven chains audited. The OHRC asked the chains to commit to the following five steps in order to move towards meeting their obligations under the Code:

  1. Develop an accessibility policy and customer complaints procedure. Create no new barriers to access. Accommodate needs where barriers exist, short of undue hardship.
  2. Review and identify accessibility barriers across corporate-owned and franchisee facilities.
  3. Develop a standardized accessibility plan for future locations that is based not just on the current Ontario Building Code, but also in respect of the requirements for accessibility under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the OHRC’s Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate, as well as upon current standards and best practices in barrier-free design.[5] This standardized plan should be mandated for all new locations and part of all franchisee agreements, and should clearly stipulate that the requirements of the accessibility plan must be met as a condition of the agreement. Avoid opening new restaurants in inaccessible premises.
  4. For existing facilities, develop a plan, and remove barriers to achieve accessibility. Immediately take steps to fix problems that can be easily addressed and/or are relatively inexpensive. For more complex barriers, implement interim solutions and phase in remaining changes that are needed to achieve full accessibility. Prioritize the changes, set specific deadlines, and assign responsibilities.
  5. Monitor progress toward achieving accessibility and report back to the OHRC in one year’s time on achievements.

In April 2004, the OHRC reported publicly on the results of the audit and the commitments made by the seven chains, in Dining Out Accessibly. At that time, the OHRC itself made the following commitments:

  1. The OHRC will continue a multi-faceted and systemic approach to pursuing the issue of restaurant accessibility by engaging the restaurant industry through professional associations, as well as raising concerns with government in regards to the OBC and the Government’s initiative to review the scope of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
  2. The OHRC will continue to receive, mediate and investigate complaints involving inaccessible restaurants and other services, and where appropriate, will refer unresolved cases to a Human Rights Tribunal.
  3. The OHRC will report back in 2005 on the status of activities and advancements made in all these areas.
  4. The OHRC will disseminate these findings to other major restaurant chains and will also ask them to report back on the accessibility of their chains as well as seek their commitment to the five steps listed above.

Immediately following the public release of Dining Out Accessibly, the OHRC took steps to share this information with the restaurant industry. In partnership with the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel & Motel Association, copies of the Report were sent out to 109 restaurant businesses.

In June 2004, the OHRC took steps to contact the remainder of the 29 restaurant chains that it initially contacted in May 2001.[6] The OHRC provided these restaurant chains with information about the OHRC’s restaurant initiative and the commitments made by the seven audited restaurant chains. The OHRC requested that these restaurants agree to the five steps agreed to by the seven chains that were audited. Meetings and discussions were held with these restaurant chains over the course of 2004/2005. The OHRC received commitments to the five steps from all but one of the restaurant chains that it contacted. A Commission Initiated Complaint was filed against that chain, which has now entered into a negotiated settlement with the OHRC.


[5] CSA Standard B651-M95 “Barrier Free Design” and CSA Standard B480-02 “Customer Service for People with Disabilities” (www.csa.ca)
[6] The OHRC initially contacted 29 restaurant chains. Seven chains were audited and made commitments in 2003. Nineteen of the original 29 chains were re-contacted in 2004. During the period of this initiative, some of the restaurants initially contacted ceased to operate in a substantial way in Ontario. As well, some of the organizations contacted by the OHRC operate a number of brands, and made commitments for more than the brand initially identified by the OHRC. The numbers of restaurants contacted and making commitments therefore do not add up.

Achievements

A total of 26 restaurant chains have now committed to the five steps towards accessibility. These restaurants are:

  1. Burger King
  2. Coffee Time Donuts
  3. Country Style Food Services Inc.
  4. Cultures Fresh Food Restaurants
  5. Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster)
  6. Druxy’s
  7. Great Canadian Bagel
  8. Harvey’s
  9. Java Joe’s
  10. Kelsey’s
  11. Kentucky Fried Chicken
  12. Montana’s Cookhouse and Milestones
  13. McDonald’s Restaurants
  14. Mr. Submarine
  15. Pizza Hut
  16. Pizza Pizza
  17. Pizzaville
  18. Second Cup
  19. Select Sandwich
  20. Starbucks Coffee Canada
  21. Subway Franchise Systems of Canada
  22. Swiss Chalet
  23. Taco Bell
  24. Tim Hortons (TDL Group)
  25. Timothy’s World Coffee
  26. Wendy’s Restaurants of Canada

The individual commitments and achievements of each of these restaurant chains are outlined in Appendix 1 to this Report.[7] Some best practices from the various restaurants are highlighted below.

Despite numerous requests and reminders, Java Joe’s failed to provide the OHRC with information regarding the steps it has taken to meet its commitments, providing only a brief letter indicating that it remained committed to accessibility, without further details. The OHRC was gravely disappointed by this response, and will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure that Java Joe’s meets its commitments and takes steps to bring its premises into compliance with the Code.

On the whole, the OHRC was impressed by the commitment that the restaurants it contacted brought to addressing restaurant accessibility. There was, however, a wide range in the extent and nature of the initiatives these restaurants undertook, with some making a much more serious and substantial commitment to the issue than others.

The 26 restaurant chains represent a wide variety of sizes and business models. Some operate in freestanding “build-to-suit” premises, while others operate in leasehold premises. Some are mainly corporate owned, while others are mainly franchised. Some have mostly older locations, which may pose significant accessibility standards, while others are newer. Some are self-serve, others are take-out, and others provide sit-down dining. Some are very large; others are relatively small. All have made commitments to improving accessibility. This range indicates that all businesses can take steps towards improving accessibility, regardless of size or business model, although of course the nature and speed of the changes will vary.

The OHRC is pleased by the positive response it has received from the restaurant industry, and the commitment to real change that these restaurants have demonstrated. The OHRC believes that these initiatives can, over time, make a significant impact on the accessibility of the restaurant industry, and hopes that other restaurant chains that have not been a part of this initiative will follow the leadership of these restaurants and take steps to assess and improve their own accessibility.


[7] Please note that Second Cup is not included in Appendix 1. As Second Cup’s commitments were received late in 2005, Second Cup had not yet had an opportunity, at the time of this Report, to make substantial progress on those commitments.

Best Practices and Next Steps in Achieving Accessibility

Many of the restaurants that the OHRC corresponded and met with emphasized that removing barriers for persons with disabilities, older persons, and families with young children was not only a matter of complying with the law, or of corporate social responsibility: it was also good business practice. They emphasized that persons with disabilities, older persons, and families with young children are their customers and their potential customers; they cannot afford to make their services inaccessible or inconvenient to such a significant demographic. The OHRC shares the view that accessible services ultimately benefit everyone, and that we all pay the price when persons with disabilities, older persons, or families with young children are marginalized or excluded.

In reviewing the achievements of the various restaurants that have participated in the Restaurant Accessibility Initiative, the OHRC wishes to draw attention to some of the positive practices that have been adopted and that may be useful as examples or a source of ideas for other restaurants seeking to achieve accessibility. This is not meant as a complete compendium of best practices, or even as a complete list of all of the positive practices adopted by the participating restaurants, but as a sample of ideas.

Franchise Agreements

  • Cara Operations, which franchises and operates Harvey’s, Kelsey’s, Montana’s Cookhouse and Milestone’s Grill and Bar, amended its standard franchise agreements to require that each individual restaurant be constructed in accordance with their standard building plan.
  • Select Sandwich has amended its franchise agreement and disclosure document to include its Accessibility Policy and Plan.

Planning

  • McDonald’s developed a comprehensive barrier-free access manual. The manual deals with issues including signage, seating, reach ranges, washrooms, doors, and accessible routes, and provides information on common barriers and solutions, and a review checklist. This is provided to franchisees as a resource in barrier removal.
  • McDonald’s has developed a comprehensive five year plan dealing with barriers in all of its restaurants across Canada, and will be implementing its accessibility initiatives across the country.

Practical Solutions:

  • Great Canadian Bagel developed practical solutions to some accessibility barriers: for example, since lowered condiment counters were awkward for customers to deal with, Great Canadian Bagel used higher condiment counters, but sloped them so as to be more accessible for those using wheelchairs. The size of menu boards was increased and the amount of text decreased: catering menus are provided for those who cannot read the overhead signs.

Leasehold Arrangements

  • Pizzaville has amended its standard lease agreements to alert landlords to their responsibility to provide premises that are accessible and barrier free.
  • As each location lease expires, Cara Operations (Harvey’s, Kelsey’s, Montana’s and Milestones) undertakes renovations as commercially reasonable to include accessibility features, or closes the location and rebuilds pursuant to the standardized accessibility plan.
  • Subway includes language in the master lease that requires the landlord’s best efforts to remove barriers inside the leased premises and on any path of travel to the leased premises controlled by the landlord. In existing locations, Subway works with its franchisees to seek the landlord’s assistance on removing barriers on leased property and common areas on the path of access to the shop.
  • Upon completion of its barrier review at each location, Select Sandwich will advise the landlord of each location of any accessibility barriers that are under the landlord’s sole control, and request that they be removed. In the event that the landlord refuses to remove barriers, Select Sandwich will report this to the Commission.

Training and Education

  • Coffee Time raises restaurant accessibility issues at its semi-annual meetings with franchisees.
  • Timothy’s developed a training program on service standards for persons with disabilities, which will be provided to all corporate and franchise staff.
  • Druxy’s trained all franchisees on its new accessibility policy, and committed to continued training of staff and franchisees.
  • Culture’s amended its training manual to include information about disability and accessibility issues.
  • Subway trains its franchisees on means of providing alternative service to persons with disabilities where complex barriers to accessibility exist.
  • McDonald’s has developed formal, standardized employee sensitivity training, with advice from the Canadian Standards Association.

Monitoring

  • Pizza Pizza conducts an annual review of accessibility enhancements and renovations, in order to highlight improvements implemented, and to set goals for the upcoming year.
  • Red Lobster’s Facilities Manager conducts accessibility audits twice once a year, as a means of identifying issues and developing solutions across the chain.

Other Features

  • Many restaurants took steps to ensure that their restaurants had Braille menus, as well as Braille or tactile signs on washroom doors.
  • Wendy’s is a partner with the Canadian Standards Association in their “Building Champions” program, focussing on accessibility for people with disabilities.
  • Tim Horton’s and McDonald’s indicated that they would be implementing their accessibility plans across Canada.

Some of the restaurants involved in this initiative are relying heavily on staff training, education, and improved customer service to achieve accessibility. It is true that greater awareness of the needs of persons with disabilities, older persons and families with young children , and the accompanying improved service to individuals belonging to these groups are essential to achieving equality. However, it is equally true that education and customer service will not on their own resolve the significant accessibility issues in the restaurant industry, and others like it. Customer service and training will not by themselves remove barriers, ensure equal access, and bring organizations into compliance with the Code. These types of initiatives must be part of a larger commitment to universal design and barrier removal, leading ultimately to barrier-free services.

It is important to reaffirm that, under the Code, the ultimate standard is that of undue hardship. Restaurants, like other service providers, must take steps to the point of undue hardship to ensure that their restaurants are accessible to persons with disabilities. Where services are provided unequally to persons with disabilities because of accessibility barriers, the service provider must show that the barrier could not be removed without incurring undue hardship in terms of costs, health and safety, and outside sources of funding. The undue hardship standard is a high one. As is stated in the Policy, business inconvenience is not a defence to a failure to accommodate. Nor can contractual arrangements act as a bar to providing accommodation.

The restaurants involved in this initiative are ultimately responsible for ensuring that their accessibility plans will bring them into compliance with the Code and are in harmony with the undue hardship standard. It has been the OHRC’s role to educate the restaurant industry about the requirements of the Code and to provide the information and support necessary for the industry to begin moving towards compliance with the Code.

All of the restaurants involved in this initiative must continue to build on their successes, plan for accessibility, and implement and monitor their plans, until all barriers have been removed, or the undue hardship standard has been reached.

Moving Forward

The restaurants that have reached voluntary agreements with the OHRC have become leaders in planning for, and moving towards accessible services for all Ontarians. They have demonstrated that accessibility can be achieved, and in a way that is positive both for business owners and operators, and for their customers.

Many of the restaurant owners and managers with whom the OHRC has met over the past few years have emphasized the importance of a “level playing field” – that is, that the restaurant industry must move forward towards accessibility as a whole. The OHRC hopes that others in the restaurant industry will follow in the steps of these restaurants, both as a “best business practice” and in recognition of their legal responsibilities under the Code.

Given these concerns, and the OHRC’s experience with the restaurant industry, it is our belief that this sector will benefit from the development of accessibility standards under the AODA that will build on the work that has been done, and will ensure that the industry moves forward together as a whole.

Restaurant owners and operators who have premises in leased buildings emphasized the difficulties that they face in obtaining cooperation from their landlords in removing accessibility barriers in the landlords’ areas of responsibility and control. This, in their view, creates a significant obstacle in any attempt to achieve full accessibility. Landlords, as providers of services and facilities, have a duty under section 1 of the Code not to discriminate on the basis of disability, and are therefore required to provide barrier-free premises, unless to do so would cause them undue hardship. Landlords who have failed to take a proactive approach to accessibility, and especially those who have been alerted to barriers in their premises and have failed to take steps to assess and remove them, may be in violation of the Code.

The achievement of full accessibility requires a cooperative approach from a number of actors: restaurant owners and franchisees, landlords, architects, the construction industry, and government, including the OHRC.

Restaurant Owners and Operators must follow the lead of these 26 restaurant chains by:

  • Setting as a goal full accessibility for their services;
  • Developing accessibility policies and plans;
  • Identifying barriers to accessibility;
  • Developing and implementing plans for removing barriers; and
  • Monitoring progress towards full accessibility.

Commercial Landlords must also take responsibility for meeting their obligations under the Code by:

  • Setting as a goal full accessibility for their premises;
  • Developing accessibility policies and plans;
  • Identifying barriers to accessibility,
  • Developing and implementing plans for removing barriers; and
  • Monitoring progress towards full accessibility.

Government must:

  • Provide guidance and assistance for the restaurant and commercial leasing industry in setting standards for the achievement of accessibility, through the mechanisms established under the AODA;
  • Ensure that the minimum accessibility standards set by the OBC support the achievement of full accessibility for persons with disabilities, and that these provisions of the OBC are interpreted in harmony with the Code; and
  • Ensure that the barrier-free provisions of the OBC are adequately communicated and enforced.

The OHRC will:

  • Continue to raise concerns with government regarding the OBC, and the importance of harmonizing the various laws currently governing accessibility issues;
  • Continue to receive, mediate, investigate and where appropriate initiate complaints involving inaccessible restaurants and other services, and where appropriate, refer unresolved cases to a Human Rights Tribunal; and
  • Disseminate these findings to the restaurant industry and commercial landlords, as well as to architects and those who provide training to architects.

In closing, the OHRC wishes to extend its thanks to the restaurant service providers that have partnered with us in improving the accessibility of the restaurant industry. The OHRC has appreciated their cooperative and positive approach to improving the accessibility of their services for customers with disabilities. These have provided positive examples of the type of policies progressive organizations can adopt to promote the equality of persons with disabilities, and improve their customer service.

Appendix: Restaurant Accessibility Commitments and Results

 

 

COMMITMENTS AND RESULTS

 

Chain

Corporate 
Accessibility Policy
Accessibility Barrier 
Identification
Standard Accessibility 
Plan for Future 
Locations
Existing Barrier 
Removal

Notes

Burger King

No data provided.

No data provided.

Accessibility reviews 
mandated on all 
remodels, rebuilds, and 
new locations.
Washrooms enlarged at 
one location; added 
accessible features at 
one other. A wheelchair 
lift was also installed in 
one location.
Most washrooms are 
barrier-free and have 
braille on the doors and 
grab bars.
Coffee Time 
Donuts
Coffee Time monitors 
customer complaints for accessibility issues.
Conducted a random 
audit of locations to find accessibility issues. Most problems 
discovered were not under the company’s 
control.
Reviewed design plan to 
ensure that all newly 
built location are 
complaint with the 
Human Rights Code. 
Will be communicating 
with all franchisees 
beginning January 2006 
on identified barriers that 
need to be addressed.
Accessibility issues are 
an agenda item at the 
biannual franchisee 
meetings.

Country Style

Working with a disability 
consultant to prepare a 
corporate accessibility 
policy, which will be in place by the end of 
2006.
Accessibility surveys 
completed at 80% of locations.
Created a design 
committee to review all 
store designs for 
compliance with the 
Building Code and 
Human Rights Code. 
Will attempt to work with 
landlords to promote 
accessibility at all leased 
locations.
Up to 50% of locations 
will be renovated during 
the next 4 years, during 
which time any accessibility problems that can be addressed 
economically will be 
looked after. 
Country Style believes 
that governments must 
find a way to harmonize 
Building Code and 
Human Rights Code 
concerns with other 
building permit issues so that all developers are 
aware of their 
responsibilities in this 
area before 
construction. 

Cultures

Training manual 
emphasizes the 
importance of assisting 
disabled customers.
Detailed accessibility 
survey carried out for all locations. 

No data provided.

No data provided.

Cultures reports that as 
most of their restaurants 
are in public locations 
(i.e. malls, public 
buildings) they do not 
have a lot of control over 
certain aspects relating 
to accessibility (i.e. 
parking, entrances, 
etc…)

Druxy’s

Accessibility Policy 
prepared and shared 
with  franchisees.
Accessibility review 
completed; identified 
stairways in two 
restaurants as potential 
problems; one 
restaurant has since closed.
All new restaurants are 
being designed with the 
results of the 
accessibility review in 
mind, including changes 
to signage, entrances, 
interior routes, and 
menu boards.
New menu boards and 
signage introduced in all 
locations with larger font 
and better contrast; as 
restaurant leases are 
renewed and renovations undertaken, 
accessibility issues will 
be dealt with.
Future plans include 
creating Braille menus, 
as well as the release of 
the formal Accessibility 
policy to all employees 
and staff training. 
Druxy’s emphasized the central importance of training for staff and 
franchisees as part of its approach. 

Great Canadian Bagel

Created a corporate 
complaints procedure; 
instructed all franchisees 
to comply with the overall spirit of OHRC’s 
Dining Out Accessibility 
checklist. 
Detailed accessibility 
survey carried out for all 
locations.
The checklist from the 
Dining Out Accessibly 
Report has been 
incorporated into new 
site location analysis. 
Will address most of the 
items identified in survey 
in future construction 
and renovations. 
Franchisees notified of 
accessibility issues 
immediately after audit; 
and changes were made 
within days for easily 
corrected problems.
Handheld menus 
available for customers 
who cannot read 
overhead signs; some 
additional signage 
added for the benefit of 
customers in 
wheelchairs. Have 
increased the size of menu boards, and have 
developed a new style for condiment stands.

Harvey’s

Corporate accessibility 
policy developed, as well as customer complaints 
procedure.
Each Ontario location 
evaluated as to 
accessibility, relying on OHRC Accessibility 
Survey to identify 
barriers.
Developed standard 
building plan 
incorporating Human 
Rights Code  and 
Building Code 
provisions, and require 
all new locations to meet 
this plan.
As location leases 
expire, renovations 
undertaken as 
commercially reasonable 
to improve accessibility 
and remove barriers, or 
location closed and 
reconstructed in 
accordance with new 
building plan.
Installed Braille and 
other tactile features on 
every washroom door; 
vertical signs for 
designated parking 
spaces installed where possible. 

Java Joe’s

The Commission has received a letter from Java Joe's reiterating their commitment to accessibility at all existing and new 
locations. No further details were provided. 

Kelsey’s

Corporate accessibility 
policy developed, as well 
as customer complaints 
procedure.
Each Ontario location 
evaluated as to 
accessibility, relying on OHRC Accessibility 
Survey to identify 
barriers.
Developed standard 
building plan 
incorporating Human 
Rights Code  and 
Building Code 
provisions, and require 
all new locations to meet 
this plan.
As location leases 
expire, renovations 
undertaken as 
commercially reasonable 
to improve accessibility 
and remove barriers, or 
location closed and 
reconstructed in 
accordance with new 
building plan.
Installed Braille and other tactile features on 
every washroom door; 
vertical signs for 
designated parking 
spaces installed where 
possible. 

KFC

Corporate accessibility 
policy developed, as well 
as customer complaints 
procedure. 
Renovation of current 
facilities done on the 
basis of identifying and 
removing barriers. 
Communication with 
franchise partners on 
importance of complying 
with human rights 
legislation when 
upgrading facilities.
Closes older facilities 
that are too costly to 
upgrade to meet human 
rights standards.

 

McDonalds

Developed a 
comprehensive 
accessibility plan.
Conducted an 
accessibility survey of all 
Ontario locations. 
Revised plans to meet 
the requirements of 
federal / provincial 
building codes, US ADA, 
and related OHRC 
policies and guidelines. 
Developed a detailed 
manual for franchisees 
and store managers 
showing common 
accessibility problems 
and their solutions.
Accessibility program 
will start in Ontario 
before expanding across 
the country.  

Montana’s / Milestones

Corporate accessibility 
policy developed, as well 
as customer complaints 
procedure.
Each Ontario location 
evaluated as to 
accessibility, relying on 
OHRC Accessibility 
Survey to identify 
barriers
Developed standard 
building plan 
incorporating Human 
Rights Code  and 
Building Code 
provisions, and require 
all new locations to meet 
this plan.
As location leases 
expire, renovations 
undertaken as 
commercially reasonable 
to improve accessibility 
and remove barriers, or 
location closed and 
reconstructed in 
accordance with new 
building plan.
Installed Braille and other tactile features on 
every washroom door; vertical signs for designated parking spaces installed where 
possible.

Mr. Sub

No data provided. 

No data provided. 

Accessibility concerns 
taken into account for 
new and renovated 
locations. This includes 
new designs for 
washrooms, seating, 
counters and 
passageways. 

No data provided.

 

Pizza Hut

No data provided.

Performed accessibility 
review using OHRC 
survey for all 
restaurants.
Issues identified in 
accessibility review 
categorized into 
immediate vs. longerterm fixes
Some inaccessible 
facilities were closed; 
menu boards were 
redesigned; working on 
renovating a fully 
accessible “prototype” 
location.
Planning to implement 
Braille menus. 

Pizza Pizza

Restaurant accessibility 
policy developed for all 
locations, including both 
corporate and franchise 
locations.
Ongoing audit of all 
locations to identify 
accessibility barriers.
All new construction will 
consider accessibility 
and barrier-free design 
concerns.
Steps taken to address 
problems that can be 
addressed costeffectively; others 
addressed in phases, in 
accordance with the 
Code ’s undue hardship 
standard.
Annual summary of 
accessibility 
enhancements and 
renovations will be 
prepared, highlighting 
improvements and 
establishing new goals 
and targets for the 
upcoming year. 

Pizzaville

No data provided.

Barrier review 
conducted; identified 
counter fixtures as a 
potential barrier. 
Amended offers of lease 
to include adherance to 
Human Rights Code; 
r evised designs so 
future locations are 
larger to accommodate 
new accessible fixtures 
and washrooms. 
Two new stores opened 
in 2005 included 
accessibly designed 
counters.
Braille menus produced 
and distributed; looking at options for a TTY phone system; working on developing a lease 
clause mandating 
accessibility. 

Red Lobster

Complete. Accessibility 
issues directed to Facilities Manager for 
investigation and 
coordination of any 
recommended action.
Conducts Facility 
Standards Audits to 
identify accessibility 
issues.  Audits identified 
need to ensure that 
pathways are clear and 
to address barrier safety 
concerns. 

Plans completed.  

Barrier removal in 
parking lots complete at 
70% of locations; 7 more 
washrooms to be 
renovated by May 2006. 
Current construction 
plan is to continue with 
remodelling process, 
into next fiscal budget
Worked with a thirdparty consultant to 
complete and test two 
prototype accessible 
washrooms.

Select Sandwich

Corporate Accessibility 
Policy and accessibility 
complaints procedure 
developed. Policy and 
procedure incorporated 
into franchise 
agreements
Will complete a full 
barrier review of all 
locations no later than 
June 30, 2006. Where 
barriers are within 
landlord's sole control, 
landlord will be 
requested to remove 
barrier. 
Accessibility Plan for 
future locations 
developed, and included 
in Franchise 
Agreements.
Will develop a barrier 
removal plan by August 
31, 2006. All barriers will 
be removed by October 
16, 2016, unless it would 
be undue hardship to do 
so.
Amended offer to lease 
to include provisions that 
lease will adhere to the 
Human Rights Code . 
Training on Policy, 
Procedure, Barrier 
Review and Code to be 
provided to all 
franchisees.

Starbucks

In 2004, Starbucks indicated to the OHRC that it had largely achieved accessibility and that effective procedures were in place for addressing ad hoc issues as they arose. Starbucks therefore did not see a need for additional monitoring or reporting, and elected not to provide any further information to the OHRC for this Report.

Subway

Completed. Continuing 
to monitor and respond 
to customer comments 
regarding accessibility.
Accessibility reviews 
performed for all stores.
Searches out accessible 
locations for future 
stores; work to include 
accessibility language in 
future leases; existing 
stores continue to be 
designed for maximum 
accessibility.
Equipment and 
hardware added to 
increase accessibility 
(i.e. doorbells); barrier 
removal during 
renovations; working 
with landlords on 
common area barriers. 
Works with franchisees 
to remove barriers 
without hardship, such 
as reasonable 
construction and 
modification; remaining 
barriers addressed 
during mandatory sevenyear re-model. 

 

Swiss Chalet

Corporate accessibility 
policy developed, as well 
as customer complaints 
procedure.
Each Ontario location 
evaluated as to 
accessibility, relying on 
OHRC Accessibility 
Survey to identify 
barriers.
Developed standard 
building plan 
incorporating Human 
Rights Code  and 
Building Code 
provisions, and require 
all new locations to meet 
this plan.
Approximately 10% of 
restaurants were 
renovated or replaced in 
their entirety to meet 
accessibility standards. 
Installed Braille and other tactile features on 
every washroom door; vertical signs for designated parking spaces installed where 
possible. 

Taco Bell

Corporate accessibility 
policy developed, as well 
as customer complaints 
procedure. 
Renovation of current 
facilities done on the 
basis of identifying and 
removing barriers. 
Communication with 
franchise partners on 
importance of complying 
with human rights 
legislation when 
upgrading facilities.
Closes older facilities 
that are too costly to 
upgrade to meet human 
rights standards.

 

Tim Hortons

 

Developed corporate 
accessibility policy
Now required as part of 
the accessibility plan for 
future locations.
Plan includes 
considerations, within 
the context of available 
real estate, for automatic 
doors, barrier-free 
washrooms, curb ramps, 
recessed waste 
receptacles, more 
barrier-free parking 
spaces, and training 
sessions or front-line 
and design staff
Braille signage added to 
washrooms, increased 
interior and exterior 
lighting levels, large-print 
menus, accessible 
complaint card 
receptacles, audible and 
visual safety alarms, 
reduced counter heights, 
changed to less-slippery 
floor cleaner.  
Changes to be made 
nationally.

Timothy's

No data provided.

Barrier review conducted 
for all locations.
Landlord scope of work 
in offer to lease 
document revised to 
include standardized 
accessibility features 
such as accessible door 
entrance hardware and 
sloped entrance 
thresholds for all main 
entries.
Major barriers in existing 
locations, including 
accessibile washrooms, 
will be removed as the 
leased premises are 
renewed. New menu 
boards have been 
developed, along with 
hand out menus. Braille 
menus are under 
consideration.
A new training program 
on service standards for 
persons with disabilities 
has been developed for 
all corporate and 
franchise staff.

Wendy’s

Internal steering 
committee convened to 
address accessibility 
issues.   
Sampled 15 locations of 
various ages and designs using OHRC 
checklist to identify 
accessibility issues; 
reviewed new store plans for further issues.
Accessibility upgrades 
are now considered for 
all remodelled locations.
Regular maintenance 
duties will now include 
refreshing of disabled 
washrooms, as well as 
inspection of ramps and 
installation of designated 
parking spaces. 
Wendy’s is a partner 
with the Canadian 
Standards Association in 
their “Building 
Champions” program; 
focussing on 
accessibility for people 
with disabilities.