Sunday, November 30, 2014

Criticism of Signs Restaurant ramp removal misguided

There is a new restaurant at Yonge and Wellesley in downtown Toronto called Signs Restaurant. The concept of the restaurant is that the waiters are deaf and you order by sign language. But Signs owner Anjan Manikumar made a huge mistake by moving into a building that is not accessible. So he hired Stopgap to build a ramp. I know the owner of Stopgap. It's called that for a reason. His ramps are a temporary but perfectly acceptable solution. It's not supposed to be permanent. On Friday, the Toronto Star reported that the City of Toronto Bylaw Enforcement ordered that the ramp be taken down because it was blocking the sidewalk. So now there has been a lot of media coverage complaining that the city is insensitive and other similar nonsense. It's completely misguided. City of Toronto Bylaw Enforcement only issues these orders if there is a complaint. I have posted a picture of the ramp. That thing is huge. So no one should be surprised that a competing restaurant complained about it. The outrage is absurd and overlooks the real story. And that is that accessibility is an afterthought in the city of Toronto but more importantly in the province of Ontario. Shouldn't Manikumar have made sure the location of his restaurant was accessible before he signed a lease? Accessibility is an afterthought. Manikumar said that the building owners won't make the building accessible. He should have gone elsewhere...but he didn't. And that brings up my real point. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was enacted in 2005. According to the law, accessibility standards are supposed to be in place everywhere in Ontario by 2025. And though I appreciate the efforts of AODA Alliance head David Lepofsky in trying to hold the provincial government's feet to the fire, we need the mainstream media in Toronto to look at the bigger picture instead of one incident. Toronto Star columnist Bob Hepburn did this the other day. All three of us know that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's silence speaks volumes. The AODA is political lip service and the law itself will never be enforced. And even if it was enforced, older buildings like the one Signs is in would be grandfathered and would not be required to be accessible. There are a lot of older buildings like this in Toronto and none of the property owners want to spend the money to be accessible. The grandfathering will be allowed. It's part of the law that no one wants to discuss. So until Premier Wynne puts some teeth in the AODA and lowers the boom on recalcitrant property owners, I'm not holding my breath. I expect accessibility in Ontario to be an afterthought long after 2025.

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