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Backgrounder - Restaurant accessibility report

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For immediate publication
July 6, 2006

Toronto - For the past five years, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (the "Commission") has been working closely with the restaurant industry to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities, older individuals, and families with young children. Moving Towards Barrier-Free Services is the OHRC’s final public report on this initiative.

As part of this initiative, 26 restaurant chains operating in Ontario made the following accessibility commitments:

  1. Develop an accessibility policy and customer complaints procedure
  2. Review and identify accessibility barriers
  3. Develop a standardized accessibility plan for future locations
  4. For existing facilities, develop a plan, and remove barriers
  5. Monitor progress toward achieving accessibility and report back

Among its recommendations, this report encourages building owners and landlords to make their facilities accessible, and recommends that other restaurants follow the lead of the 26 chains that participated in this project and develop accessibility plans and remove barriers in their locations. However, it also stresses the need for ongoing monitoring and removal of barriers, even among the participating chains, and the need for increased government support through the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

The participating chains are:

  • Burger King
  • Coffee Time Donuts
  • Country Style Food Services Inc.
  • Cultures Fresh Food Restaurants
  • Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster)
  • Druxy’s
  • Great Canadian Bagel
  • Harvey’s
  • Java Joe’s
  • Kelsey’s
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken
  • Montana’s Cookhouse and
  • McDonald’s Restaurants
  • Mr. Submarine
  • Pizza Hut
  • Pizza Pizza
  • Pizzaville
  • Second Cup
  • Select Sandwich
  • Starbucks Coffee Canada
  • Subway Franchise Systems
    of Canada
  • Swiss Chalet
  • Taco Bell
  • Tim Hortons (TDL Group)
  • Timothy’s World Coffee
  • Wendy’s Restaurants of Canada

The report details numerous achievements from restaurants whose best practices in this area are useful as examples for other chains and businesses working towards accessibility, for example:

  • Select Sandwich has amended its franchise agreement and disclosure document to include its Accessibility Policy and Plan.
  • Great Canadian Bagel developed practical solutions to some accessibility barriers: for example, since lowered condiment counters were awkward for customers to deal with, Great Canadian Bagel used higher condiment counters, but sloped them so as to be more accessible for those using wheelchairs. The size of menu boards was increased and the amount of text decreased: catering menus are provided for those who cannot read the overhead signs.
  • Pizzaville has amended its standard lease agreements to alert landlords to their responsibility to provide premises that are accessible and barrier free.
  • As each location lease expires, Cara Operations (Harvey’s, Kelsey’s, Montana’s and Milestones) undertakes renovations as commercially reasonable to include accessibility features, or closes the location and rebuilds pursuant to the standardized accessibility plan.
  • Upon completion of its barrier review at each location, Select Sandwich will advise the landlord of each location of any accessibility barriers that are under the landlord’s sole control, and request that they be removed. In the event that the landlord refuses to remove barriers, Select Sandwich will report this to the Commission.
  • McDonald’s has developed formal, standardized employee sensitivity training, with advice from the Canadian Standards Association.
  • Wendy’s is a partner with the Canadian Standards Association in their "Building Champions" program, focussing on accessibility for people with disabilities.
  • Tim Hortons and McDonald’s indicated that they would be implementing their accessibility plans across Canada.
  • Many restaurants took steps to ensure that their restaurants had Braille menus, as well as Braille or tactile signs on washroom doors.

A complete list of commitments and achievements for each participating franchise can be found in the report’s appendix.

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Afroze Edwards
Sr. Communications Officer
Communications and Issues Management
(416) 314-4528

Jeff Poirier
Senior Policy Analyst
Policy Education, Monitoring and Outreach Branch (PEMO)
Ontario Human Rights Commission