People with limited mobility encounter obstacles on a daily basis.
But there’s an additional obstacle in the summer season: outdoor terraces, many of which are not wheelchair accessible.
“I’m kind of insulted, sort of feel invisible,” said Bill Lavery, who has multiple sclerosis and relies on a scooter to get around.
On Monday, Lavery tried to meet friends at a popular pub on St-Laurent Boulevard.
With the Mural Festival underway, a temporary terrace had been installed.
It has no access for people with limited mobility and blocks the usual entrance to the restaurant.
Lavery asked to speak to the manager.
“He told me that it wasn’t their fault, that it was the city’s fault for not enforcing the rule,” Lavery said.
According to city bylaws, the rules for temporary festival terraces are more lenient than for permanent ones.
Still, if a business was wheelchair accessible before the festival started, it must remain so.
Montreal lawyer Julius Grey says there is no constitutional protection that guarantees universal accessibility for people with physical disabilities.
“I don’t think the law says that every single place must be accessible at all times, because that would create a straight-jacket,” Grey told Global News. “There would be a lot of unusable places and I don’t think that was the intention.”
Still, some establishments are making an effort to remedy this problem.
On Wednesday, Lavery made a reservation at the ITHQ restaurant on St. Denis Boulevard.
He was told that, while the terrace is not presently wheelchair accessible, a ramp will be installed in the coming days.
“I’m glad to hear it,” Lavery said. “He said that they hadn’t thought of it before and that they just opened the terrace. And apparently it came to light that they needed to change it. So they took steps to take care of that.”
It’s a small victory for Lavery and others with physical disabilities, but there’s still a ways to go.
“There’s no reason that these things can’t be accommodated,” Lavery said. “Someone just has to think a little bit ahead.”
Lavery hopes that greater attention will be paid to wheelchair accessibility in the years to come.