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Restaurant accessibility report highlights successes of industry cooperation

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July 6, 2006

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For immediate publication 

Toronto - Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (the "Commission") was joined by representatives of the business, government, and disability communities today while releasing Moving Towards Barrier-Free Services, the Commission’s final report into restaurant accessibility. This report demonstrates the progress that can be achieved through cooperation between government and business, but also emphasizes the need for ongoing improvement.

"Much progress has been made towards making Ontario restaurants accessible, but there is still much work to be done," said Chief Commissioner Hall. "While different businesses will be capable of doing different things, everybody should be taking responsibility to make this province fully accessible."

Ms. Hall was joined today by the Honourable Madeleine Meilleur, Minister Responsible for Ontarians with Disabilities, McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada President Louie Mele, and three-time Olympic finalist and Paralympic champion Jeff Adams at the McDonald’s restaurant at 1890 Avenue Road, one of the franchise’s many accessible locations in the province.

"We are proud to be taking responsibility for making our restaurants more accessible," said Mr. Mele. "Working towards full accessibility improves the lives of our customers and staff, and also makes good business sense."

"Different disabilities face different barriers, and it takes an ongoing commitment for all of these barriers to be removed," said Mr. Adams. "I would like to commend the Ontario Human Rights Commission and all of the participating restaurants for their dedication to accessibility for everyone."

Dining Out Accessibly, published in 2004, was the Commission’s first report on this subject, and contained the results of accessibility surveys conducted at seven restaurant chains across the province. The chains involved each committed to develop accessibility policies, identify and remove barriers, and to develop standard accessibility plans for future locations. Afterwards, a further 19 restaurant chains each committed to the same actions.Moving Towards Barrier-Free Services reports on the advances made by the participating restaurants since 2004.

The Commission has long called for the government to amend the Ontario Building Code to meet established accessibility standards, and was pleased to see last week’s announcement of forthcoming changes to that act addressing some accessibility issues. The Commission is reviewing these amendments in light of its previously expressed concerns, and will advise the government of its findings.

The Commission has been working on restaurant accessibility since 2001, achieving many positive results in that time. We will continue to ensure the industry’s compliance with the Human Rights Code in the future. With the passage in 2005 of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Commission is now looking to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, the government division responsible for setting accessibility standards under that Act, to take a leadership role in working with businesses, landlords, and the government to ensure ongoing progress towards accessibility.

"The Commission has laid the foundation for ongoing progress towards restaurant accessibility," added Chief Commissioner Hall. "We look forward to supporting the work of the Accessibility Directorate in the future."

See also:

Backgrounder - Restaurant accessibility report 

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Afroze Edwards
Sr. Communications Officer
Communications and Issues Management
(416) 314-4528

Jeff Poirier
Senior Policy Analyst
Policy Education, Monitoring and Outreach Branch (PEMO)
Ontario Human Rights Commission