Thursday, September 23, 2010

Same Old, Same Old ...

He towered over me, angry, explaining that the store, a Metro Grocery Store, was a private place and they had rights too. What was this angry response to? We had gone into the store and for the first time ever in a large grocery store there was no entry point for someone with a disability. They had those turnstile things, they had a square cut out for carts to go under, that was it. A polite request that I go under where the carts go was met with my firm, 'You're kidding?'

Finally, someone had to clear out an unused checkout aisle of stuff to let me in. I has a battle raging inside. I didn't want to shop there, I didn't want to have to go somewhere else, I didn't want to have a chat with the manager ... I just wanted to freaking shop. I'd worked all day, hard, and I was 'good tired'. Now I'm just miserable. As we were paying for our supper groceries, I asked to speak to the manager.

I tell him the problem and he explains how there's a lot of theft so that have to make entry difficult. I said, 'So, it's OK for you to keep people with disabilities out.' After tooing and froing between us, him getting angrier and angrier. He ended up explaining to me that he'd seen me shopping so they'd 'let me in'. How nice. But they had to clear a whole aisle and make a big fuss. I don't want fuss, I just want entry. I pointed to all the other shoppers saying, 'You don't make it difficult for them to enter, why make it difficult for me.'

He finally said that the store was private property and they had their rights too. And one of those rights, apparently, is making the store completely without an access point for those in wheelchairs. I asked him he they made black customers come in the back door, he said, 'No, that would be wrong.' Well, at least he gets that.

So they've got my name, the store owner will call me. Yeah, when spiders spin webs on Madonna's gym equipment. So can someone help me ... what is the law here in Canada about access to stores like Metro ... surely there is some protection and some guarantee about access but I don't know the law. I'd like to before the owner calls. I'd like advice - is this the kind of thing you bring to the human rights commission.

I know it's only a store. But I'm tired of telling stories like this over and over again ... don't even get me started on the hotel ...


Jannalou said...

The Human Rights Commission would probably like to hear it. It's their bag.

Taking it to court is probably not worth the time and effort. If it's a smaller store (e.g., not part of a chain, struggling to make it, unable to afford to make accommodations) then suing will not get you anywhere.

But the Human Rights Commission will totally love this case.

(This is courtesy of my husband, who is not a lawyer but has a strong interest in the law. Also, we are Canadian.)

The Untoward Lady said...

Well, from what I can tell your right to access the building is ensured in the Ontario Human Rights Code part 1 sec. 1 (do you guys call those sections?):

"Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status or disability. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 1; 1999, c. 6, s. 28 (1); 2001, c. 32, s. 27 (1); 2005, c. 5, s. 32 (1)."

and the Canada Charter of Rights and Freedoms section 15:

"15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability."

Now, the Ontario Human Rights Commission's Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate seems to make it pretty clear that the store owner is SUPPOSED to make his story equally accessible to people with disabilities but, again, it's all vague and fuzzy without really any concrete rights. I suppose it does guide interpretation for the nebulous ideals in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Without further ado:

"4.1.3 (a) Design by inclusion

Integration requires up-front barrier-free design and inclusion-by-design to fully integrate persons with disabilities into all aspects of society as much as possible."

Whew, lot's of ideals and not much specific substance. The actual law that he's violating (I'm sure there is one) is probably some obscure building code buried in a multi-volume legal framework.

Call me a silly American but I like my civil rights enumerated in bullet points. *laughs*

Jan said...

Metro is a large chain and since they bought out A&P their customer service is the pits. I was in a metro during the summer and asked about some produce and was told it was not available yet. When I said yes it was I had seen it advertised in another store I was told to go shop there. Apparently this store is not one that wants the business. On your cash register slip there is an email address to lodge any of your concerns but I am not sure they pay attention to the comments they get

Emma said...

This probably isn't any use but in the UK it would be covered by the disability discrimination act which would require reasonable adjustments and also part of the building code which states all new buildings including private houses must have wheelchair access. Maybe you could check similar laws in Canada? Although it seems like everyone else has some good ideas.

Anonymous said...

I haven't checked but the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with a Disability Act) probably has something relevant to say!

Andrea S. said...

I don't know Canadian law, but Canada did fully ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. So if all else fails, you could argue that it is a violation of your human rights under the CRPD. I don't know that the store would listen (clearly they don't seem to think disabled people have rights!), but surely that would be one more thing to interest the Human Rights Commission.

More info on the CRPD at

Full text of the CRPD at

Unfortunately, Canada apparently hasn't signed or ratified the Optional Protocol. But that should only matter if things went truly pear shaped and there were no justice anywhere to be found under current Canadian law or system of justice. (The Optional Protocol basically adds another level of teeth in cases where human rights violations not only occur against people with disabilities but a country's system of justice also basically makes it impossible to pursue justice ... so it's important if you need it, but you do have to actually try out avenues for pursuing justice within your own country before it kicks in)

Good luck negotiating with the store. If you're starting to talk about the law then this incident must have been pretty deeply upsetting for you. Having to keep fighting the same battle over and over does really wear you down, doesn't it? Been there, done that, except usually from the deaf angle rather than the wheelchair angle (except vicariously when trying to advocate for others).

Nathan Dawthorne said...

Give my hubby a call at CHS London His name is Michael 519-667-3325x230
He does this for a living for deaf rights (is on London's Disability Advisory Committee so knows what you can do)

Kristin said...

Everyone else seems to have covered the law aspect of your question. I just wanted to say how sorry I am you went through this crap.

Trisha Carter, Gone Green said...

It's basically their lost. If words get out then people who cares about such things will eventually not shop there anymore. I know, I wouldn't.

Becca said...

You should take a look at Building Code standards. Accessibility (exact measurements, etc.) will be found there, something concrete that you can have on hand. And knowing how strict the Code is here in the US, I'm sure Canada has similar standards in place to guarantee accessibility and safety for everyone when buildings that allow public access are constructed.

Fun Mum said...


Specifically for Ontario:

I just had a way cool webinar at work (one of the Big 5 Canadian banks) on integrating accessibility in every aspect of our work. Was for Project Managers, Business Analysts and Developers. Gotta start from the ground up, and we're doing it!

Catherine said...

If that were me pushing my son's 5-foot-long wheelchair, that inaccessible store would never get another cent of my money. You were willing to do a "middle of the bus" compromise, wherein you and your chair would enter where carts normally do. WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THAT???

I would also suggest writing to the CEO of whatever company owns this pitiful excuse for a store, explaining in your awesomely eloquent Hingsburger fashion that you will take your business elsewhere and influence your many, many contacts to do the same. You can bet that my son and I, just for starters, now know to stay far away from that store when we have money to spend!

Lene said...

there is the Ontario Building Code and then there most certainly is the Ontario Human Rights Code. Although you may not be violating the accessibility section of the Building: - it's been so long, I can't remember - they are certainly violating the Human Rights Code.

What is it with Metro these days? Last week, I had my own run-in with my local Metro about how changes to the store related to the new self checkout and a theft prevention contraption had created barriers to people with disabilities. I happened on somebody from head office who was there and had a talk that will make your head spin ( Then I wrote a letter to the Vice President of Store Operations of Metro Ontario, included a printout of my blog entry and a letter asking him if Metro doesn't want my business anymore. I'm waiting for a reply - the letter should arrive this week and if I've had no response by the end of next week, I'm pushing it further.

Maybe we should consider another blog swarm and write in campaign? Or maybe, if neither of us hear back in a week, we should team up and approach the Human Rights Commission.

Manuela said...

Well I shop at Metro, one near my cottage which is an old store - use to be an A&P until bought out and one in the City that is fairly new. Both have easy access and a checkout that is posted for disabled. Ive noticed the aisle open whenever I go - so it makes me think the issues you encountered are specific to the store or the ones I shop at have great managers. Of course I have seen people with intellectual disabilities also working in both stores I shop in so maybe they have taken upon themselves to be more accessible in all senses. I agree though with the comments - there is disability rights in Ontario, some specific to the code and others to the new Access law and its worth taking this further.

moplans said...

Wow. That ignorance is shocking.
When you find out what the rules are can you let me know because while my local metro is not great the pharma plus in the same mall actually keeps boxes in front of the elevator and accessible entrance.