Recently we came across an article on Healthzone.ca that discussed a situation in Toronto with regards to accessibility for Ontarians.
A Starbucks in Toronto installed an access ramp in October 2011, much to the delight of patrons desiring a fully accessible entrance. The management company of the building stated they "thought it was the right thing for us to do, to put the handicapped ramp along the west side of the building to access Starbucks."
Unfortunately the ramp was removed two weeks later from the city owned sidewalk. Toronto city manager Kyp Perikleous stated that the permit had been denied, due to the fact that the ramp forced pedestrians to walk on the boulevard, and also presented an issue when it came to the clearing of snow and ice in the winter. States Kyp, "If we allow individual properties to start putting things right on the sidewalks, we're not being fair to all residents."
This can be confusing for business owners, with the recent Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act passed in 2005, where Ontario is working towards a fully accessible province by 2025.
However, it is important to note that the first standard to be compliant with (by January 1st 2012), is the A.O.D.A Customer Service Standard which requires Ontario businesses to provide their goods and services in a way that is accessible for all Ontarians. The Customer Service Standard does not requirephysical changes to increase the accessibility.
There are 5 Standards within the A.O.D.A., consisting of the Customer Service Standard, Transportation Standard, Information & Communication Standard, Employment Standard and the lastly the Built Standard. The Built Standard is still currently in development, meaning there are no legislative requirements at the moment specific to the A.O.D.A to make your establishment physically accessible.
While it is commendable that Starbucks is trying to make their facility fully accessible for all patrons, the lesson to be learned here is to be sure your city's bylaws allow such a ramp and that you get an approved permit to build before you implement any changes to the physical accessibility of your building.
As described in the article, one of Starbucks customers for the last four years has knocked at the side door to order her latte and have it brought to her. Under the A.O.D.A Customer Service Standard, this appears to be an acceptable way to provide the goods and service. This particular Starbucks location has developed a policy and procedure in which to serve customers who are not able to access their facility, while adhering to the four core principles of dignity, independence, integration and equality of opportunity.
Remember, many obligations can be met with modest measures under the A.O.D.A Customer Service Standard, and many are simply a courtesy that providers may have not considered before.
Learn more about the A.O.D.A Customer Service Standard and access resources by clicking here.
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