Guelph man pushing for accessible entrances to downtown businesses
Published Tuesday, January 15, 2013 5:40PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 15, 2013 6:39PM EST
A Guelph man is taking nearly a dozen different businesses to human rights tribunals, saying the stores’ lack of wheelchair entrances are a form of discrimination.
Matthew Wozenilek has filed human right complaints against 11 different stores in downtown Guelph.
“I want to be treated like anyone else,” Wozenilek says.
“I’m in this wheelchair every day, and I would like to consider myself a part of the rest of society. When those doors are there, they are a visual hammerhead.”
Wozenilek began his action in 2010, when he took on a Speedvale Avenue convenience store. The store installed automatic doors before the hearing began, but Wozenilek carried through and was awarded $6,000 in compensation.
Wyndham Arts Supplies was the next business to come under fire from Wozenilek.
Much like the convenience store, Wyndham owner Chris Ahlers chose to install a door. In this case, Wozenilek didn’t continue the action and said he was satisfied with the resolution.
“At the time, we did it to avoid a legal hassle,” says Ahlers.
“I am happy that we have a door in. It’s a good thing to have. I don’t know that I agree with the approach that was taken.”
Diana Downtown owner Shelina Lalani says she’s the latest business owner to be served with papers demanding automatic doors and monetary compensation.
According to Lalani, she asked Wozenilek to wait until the end of January to give her time to find money for a door, but was rebuffed.
“He said not only does he want the door being installed here, but he wants the $6,000 in compensation as well,” she tells CTV.
Wozenilek says the compensation is deserved even after doors are installed.
“A lot of the stores receive this notice and then they might put in the door, and then they think that it’s over. It is over in the sense that I’ve been accommodated, but at what cost?” he says.
While provincial accessibility standards are still being developed, there are exemptions for heritage buildings like Diana Downtown and many other shops in downtown Guelph.
But Wozenilek says regardless of what’s set out in provincial regulations, making buildings impossible for some people to access is a human rights violation.
“When you don’t accommodate a disabled person, or a person with a disability, that is discrimination,” he says.