Despite ongoing issues, Ontario plans to reduce small business accessibility requirements

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Advocates say province planning to reduce accessibility requirements for small businesses
WATCH ABOVE: One year ago, Global News reported on hurdles people with services dogs face. So, we went back to see what the provincial government has done since then. Advocates say Ontario is backtracking on requirements for small businesses. Christina Stevens explains – Apr 20, 2016

For most people, hailing a cab is no big deal, but Diane Bergeron has a guide dog and she says that makes all the difference.

After a hotel doorman hailed a taxi for Bergeron, she said the driver refused to allow her guide dog Lucy on board.

“He just said, ‘No I’m not taking a dog,’ even though I was in full view,” said Bergeron, who works with CNIB, an non-proit rehabilitation agency for the visually impaired.

READ MORE: Some Toronto police still unaware of guide dog enforcement despite promise

Bergeron said her dog wears a harness identifying it as a guide dog, but a second cab also refused.

The third one finally took her.

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Bergeron has added her voice to others who said they have been denied various services due to their guide dog.

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Provincial legislation, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, protects the rights of people with disabilities.

But critics said the government plans to backtrack on requirements for small businesses.

READ MORE: Woman challenged by Tim Hortons over guide dog last year not happy with response

Currently, companies with more than 20 employees must have a written policy on accessibility.

But that is soon expected to apply only to businesses with more than 50 employees.

“So if you go into one of those places and say ‘Do you have a policy?’ all the person has to do is point to their heads and say, ‘Yes, it’s in here’, well, how do you enforce that?” asked David Lepofksy, Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

“Making them do more paperwork is not the route to go,” added Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure.

“The key for us is to make sure the businesses are aware of the opportunities of becoming more accessible.”

“The government’s solution when there’s large lawbreaking when there’s ineffective enforcement is promise more and pass regulations which means there’s actually going to be less effective enforcement,” said Lepofsky.

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Duguid explained if someone does encounter a problem, there is a provincial line they can call.

“And we will send out enforcement where we can,” said Duguid.

READ MORE: Toronto woman drops human rights complaint over guide dog after apology

But when Global News called the toll free line and asked if it is linked to enforcement, the operator said they did not have one in place.

She wasn’t even sure where to report the denial of access due to a service dog.

The government is, however, working on a new initiative in a website similar to the popular travel review site TripAdvisor, but for issues of accessibility.

Bergeron also said creating change isn’t all on the government, as everyone can play a role, including the public.

“If they see somebody being refused with a guide dog, help them by making sure that they can come forward as a witness,” she said.

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