At a number of the sites visited, the results of the audit confirmed that there are restaurant facilities in operation in Ontario that do not meet even the most basic accessibility requirements of the current Building Code, nor the provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code. In some cases, facilities are completely inaccessible while at other locations, persons with disabilities would face significant barriers, particularly in accessing washrooms.
A range of barriers were identified, summarized as follows:
Pedestrian route (exterior to interior)
There was a lack of an obvious and safe pedestrian route into the facility at many locations. While this can be an issue for many, it creates a particularly difficult situation for individuals with visual impairments who do not drive.
Accessible parking spaces were sometimes poorly placed, too narrow or too sloped. Some lacked a vertical sign, which is especially important in areas where snowfall is heavy in winter.
- Entrance Doors
Entrance doors did not always meet clear width requirements of the Building Code, did not open fully, did not have automatic door openers, or had two doors in close sequence making it difficult for persons using mobility aids to hold open one door while opening another. Some entrance ramps were not appropriately constructed, e.g. having a ramp but no level landing at the top. Some entrances had thresholds over 13 mm high, which not only makes it difficult for individuals who use wheelchairs but also imposes a tripping hazard for persons with other disabilities. Some entrances were completely inaccessible because of several steps leading up to the entrance door.
There was a lack of well-contrasted signage, menu boards and menus - these are an issue for persons with visual impairments. Ideally, signage should be well contrasted with a Sans Serif font, such as Arial or Helvetica. Overhead menus should also be available at eye level or in paper format to allow persons with visual impairments to get close enough to read them. Accessible tactile signage, including Braille signage on bathroom doors and Braille menus are equally important. And, not all cash registers displayed the price, which is particularly useful for persons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
- Interior Route
Although a number of restaurants were designed with adequate clear routes and maneuvering space for wheelchairs, access was compromised by placement of display materials, podiums, plants, and garbage bins. Such barriers show a lack of consideration for persons with disabilities but can be easily corrected. As well, some restaurants lacked a variety of seating options which presents a problem for persons with mobility aids or guide dogs.
- WashroomsThe results for washrooms were particularly disappointing. In some restaurants, the washrooms were located in an inaccessible part of the restaurant (as too were the pay phones in some cases). Some restaurants only provided either the men’s or women’s (usually the women’s) washroom as accessible. Some washroom entrance doors did not meet the clear width requirements in the Building Code. Some stalls had narrow doorways or were too small. Some lacked grab bars, or they were installed incorrectly. The accessible stall door sometimes incorrectly opened inwards instead of outwards rendering it ineffective. And there was often a lack of appropriate maneuvering space due to, for example, placement of garbage bins, toilet paper dispensers etc. In other cases, the accessible stall was completely out of order.
There were also some washrooms where the location of the sink or hand dryer requires the customer to stand in front of the door. This is especially troublesome for customers who use wheelchairs because it completely prevents them or others from entering or leaving the washroom while the sink or dryer are being used.
- Other Accessibility Barriers
Some restaurants required people to make food choices, e.g. from a salad bar or display cabinet, but at a height that may not be visible for those who use a wheelchair. Self-serve beverage and condiments were sometimes beyond the reach of customers who use wheelchairs. It would also be difficult for persons with visual impairments to use these areas independently as nothing is labeled. Take-out counters were also sometimes too high. Music levels where sometimes too high (also an issue for persons with hearing loss) and the quality and quantity of lighting was sometimes either too harsh or inadequate (an issue for persons with vision loss).
In many situations, there was a lack of consistency in accessibility design and practices between outlets of the same restaurant chain.
Despite barriers being identified at most restaurant locations, it must be said that some of the sites visited, typically newer ones, were exemplary in their degree of barrier-free access. At the same time, there were a few newer sites that still had problems with accessibility. One location, newly opened within the last few years, could not be accessed due to several steps leading to the entrance. A ramp was not provided.