Dining for All

Nowadays it takes a lot more for restaurants to be considered sustainable. Being “sustainable” is not only whether a restaurant uses recycled materials, fair trade coffee, or local organic food that is freshly prepared.  Sustainable restaurants must also consider their impact on our society which includes ensuring their ability to serve all citizens regardless of any disability they may have.   Unfortunately, not all restaurant operators are up to speed on such an important issue.  In fact, many are not even aware that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) exists.

This issue has become a very important topic to me since I’m now a C-4 quadriplegic who is mechanically ventilated. Therefore the fact that this Act has passed allows for those suffering from a disability such as myself the ability to go out and enjoy a nice dinner.

Recognizing the history of discrimination against persons with disabilities in Ontario, the purpose of this Act is to benefit all Ontarians by developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.  This is in respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises on or before January 1, 2025, providing for the involvement of persons with disabilities.

In order for restaurants to comply with these standards there are a few things they need to look out for. The restaurant must make sure they do not have any barriers for a person with a disability. This includes physical barriers as well as architectural barriers, communication barriers, attitudinal barriers and technological barriers. Therefore a restaurant must include an area that is wheelchair accessible that includes a washroom, a menu in which includes braille and staff that are understanding.

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As of January 1, 2012, Ontario Regulation 429/07 Accessibility Standards for Customer Service was to be fully implemented. It has been put into full effect among both private sector organizations and public sector organizations. The standard addresses business practices and training needed to provide better customer service to people with disabilities.

Ontario Regulation 191/11 Integrated Accessibility Standards deals with four other key areas with regards to accessibility.

  1. Accessible Information and Communication standards to address the removal of barriers in access to information. The standards could include information being provided in person, through print, a website or other means such as signing for the hearing-impaired, braille for the visually impaired and augmentative communication.
  2. Employment Accessibility standards will address paid employment practices, which could include recruitment, hiring and retention policies and practices.
  3. Accessible Transportation standards have been put in place to address the aspects of accessible public transportation. This is crucial for people with disabilities to live a fulfilling life by allowing them to get to and from work, school, shopping and other aspects of daily life.
  4. Accessible Built Environment standards to address access into and within buildings and outdoor spaces and are expected to build on Ontario’s Building Code. The standards include things like counter height, aisle and door width, parking and signs.

There a lot of parts in which a restaurant needs to take into consideration to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This includes, but is not limited to, making restaurant menus that include Braille for the visually impaired, ensuring there are accessible washrooms, and allowing some appropriate height tables to permit wheelchairs. Due to the substantial capital investments the government has allotted until 2025, organizations can spread out the accessibility investments over time, therefore allowing them to plan ahead and incorporate capital expenditures into their normal business plans and strategies.

You can read into the Act in more detail through the following link:

http://www.aoda.ca/

You can also find that the impact on Ontario restaurants:

http://restaurantcentral.ca/NewaccessibilitystandardsOntario.aspx

 

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