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Seven restaurant chains make landmark commitment to improve services for customers with disabilities

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April 6, 2004

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For immediate publication 

Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission today announced that seven chains, Country Style Donuts, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Subway, Swiss Chalet and Tim Hortons have made commitments to a process that will eliminate barriers for customers with disabilities. This result was obtained after the Commission shared the results of an independent accessibility audit with the chains.

In the Report entitled Dining Out Accessibly, the seven chains have agreed, for the most part, to the following five steps:

  • Developing an accessibility policy and customer complaints procedure;
  • Reviewing and identifying accessibility barriers across corporate-owned and franchised facilities;
  • Developing a standardized accessibility plan for future locations that is based not just on the current Ontario Building Code, but also on requirements for accessibility under the Ontario Human Rights Code as well as CSA standards for barrier-free design and for customer service for persons with disabilities; 
  • For existing facilities, developing a plan, and removing barriers to achieve accessibility, such as immediately taking steps to fix problems that can be easily addressed and/or are relatively inexpensive, and for more complex barriers, implementing interim solutions and phasing in any remaining changes needed to achieve full accessibility; and,
  • Monitoring progress toward achieving accessibility by reporting back to the Commission in one year’s time on achievements.

Last fall, Chief Commissioner Keith Norton met with the chain’s representatives to discuss the results of the audit of their respective outlets. Mr. Norton commented, "We found the willingness of these chains to cooperate and discuss their concerns with us to be very positive. Many were not fully aware of their responsibilities with regard to accommodating persons with disabilities, so the meetings provided a valuable opportunity to discuss how they could make their outlets more accessible for persons with disabilities, and set out progressive steps and commitments to achieve barrier-free services and facilities." 

The audit of four sites per chain demonstrates the nature of barriers that customers with disabilities would face.  These included lack of safe pedestrian routes into the restaurant, automatic doors at entrances, lower counter heights at cash registers or self-serve areas, Braille menus, and accessible washroom facilities. 

The Commission believes that rather than addressing barriers on the basis of one human rights complaint at a time, it is far more preferable that businesses make commitments and take steps to achieve inclusive facilities voluntarily and cooperatively.

The Commission hopes that the positive response from these chains will promote a similar level of commitment and cooperation from others in the restaurant and hospitality industry.  A business or organization that has no plan or intention to remove barriers or renovate inaccessible premises leaves itself vulnerable to the possibility of a complaint under the Human Rights Code.

For its part, the Commission will continue to provide input on accessibility issues in the context of the Government of Ontario’s current review of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act and Ontario’s Building Code.

The Report follows a Commission commitment to address accessibility issues faced by persons with disabilities in the area of public services and facilities. 

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


François Larsen