A few dozen people came together in Verdun on Saturday to denounce local politicians and businesses for not doing enough to make the area accessible to people in wheelchairs.
“They ignore us. It’s like we’re second-class citizens,” said protester Anne D’Amico, a wheelchair user.
The protesters gathered at the corner of Wellington and de L’Eglise on Saturday.
Wellington has become one of Montreal’s most vibrant commercial streets, but the demonstrators made it clear they often don’t feel welcome there.
“Ninety per cent of local businesses one cannot enter simply by virtue of a small step,” said protest organizer Jody Negley.
While many businesses on Wellington do have ramps, steps at the door make a lot of the trendy new shops off-limits for people in wheelchairs, protesters said.
“There are lots of places my friends would be able to go to, but I won’t be able to go to,” Negley explained.
That’s why she and other disabled people came together on Saturday to send a message: they want every business to be accessible.
“The city has to show leadership on telling businesses its no longer okay in 2019 to discriminate and segregate people with wheel chairs,” Negley told Global News.
“Verdun is great. There are so many nice things, great places. But I start walking in this place, in this store, and my friend can’t come here,” said Udayan Sen, who is not disabled but helped organize the protest. .
The protesters pointed to a building that was in the midst of being renovated, but would still not be receiving accessibility ramps.
“It’s just like a slap in the face,” said Sen.
“Brand-new businesses are being opened and they’re not required to be accessible,” explained Negley.
Verdun Mayor Jean-Francois Parenteau stopped by to show his support to the protesters. He said the city will foot 80 per cent of the bill if businesses put in ramps or other accessibility measures.
“If you want to make changes, the city will pay for the changes,” Parenteau told Global News.
However, while the city has asked businesses to make changes, it says it can’t force them.
“They say, ‘yeah, yeah,’ but you turn your back and they don’t do anything,” said D’Amico.
Protesters are hoping to get the public’s support in their battle.
“I’m asking people in Montreal to just take a moment to imagine what their life would be if they were in a chair, and we hope that they will take a stand when they go to their local restaurant or store to mention it to the business,” said Negley.
Globla News reached out to the Wellington street merchants’ association, but they said nobody was available to comment on Saturday.