March 25, 2015 7:55 pm
Updated: March 25, 2015 8:07 pm

Ontario claims to be a leader in helping people with disabilities, despite criticism


TORONTO – Being rejected from local businesses can be hard to take and after years with a guide dog, Cambridge resident Helen Kitchen has list of places she has been told the dog is not welcome.

“When I call a taxi they don’t want to take her, even going into the mall, restaurants, all kinds of places,” said Kitchen.

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She’s lost count of the number of times she has been discriminated against because of her guide dog, Corolla. She has developed a new tactic to deal with it, she refuses to budge and that’s what she did when an airport shuttle driver insisted the dog had to get out.

“I just told them we are going to sit here and I will call the police,” said Kitchen.

READ MORE: Disability advocates question Toronto Parapan Am Games readiness

Global News has already reported on other people with guide dogs facing similar battles.

At the same time, advocates for people with disabilities said the provincial government is cutting back on enforcement of laws aimed at accessibility.

“That’s the wrong way to go, it’s backwards,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities act alliance.

The government disagreed, saying they are making sure businesses comply with accessibility legislation.

“We’re not backing away from enforcement. We’re doing 1200 audits this year alone,” said Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid.

However, last year the number of audits was closer to 2000 representing a drop this year by more than a third in the number of audits.

READ MORE: Toronto police admit it’s their job to step in when service dogs denied

The government’s own numbers also say that 60 per cent of organizations haven’t filed records showing their compliance.

“We’re ahead of most other jurisdictions, if not all other jurisdictions,” said Duguid.

The government has a phone line, that it said is to “submit feedback and lodge complaints.”

When Global News called the number, there was a two and half minute speech on what the government is doing.

Then Service Ontario answered, and said the line was not for lodging complaints.

“If you were looking for a complaint, you’d have to talk to human rights,” said the operator. She then transferred the call to someone she said could “take feedback” and provide the right phone number.

After more than twenty minutes on hold, we followed the prompts to leave a voice mail so that someone could call back.

That didn’t work, we could not access the voice mail, nor a living person, so hung up after a total time of about half an hour.

The Premier echoed the minister’s statements.

“We are leaders in terms of our legislation standards that we have in place,” said Kathleen Wynne.

She insisted education, not enforcement is key.

Yet, despite all of the government’s claims of success, Kitchen said she is still running into hurdles. After travelling across much of Canada she was able to compare her experiences.

“I’ve only been challenged on my access in Ontario.”

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