Plateau bylaw requires wheelchair access to terrasses
MONTREAL - Warm temperatures and enjoying Montreal's terrasses may both seem a little far off after Monday's bitter cold.
But for people with reduced mobility, that day is closer than ever, at least on the Plateau.
Following a complaint made to Quebec's Human Rights Commission the borough has passed a new bylaw that requires patios to be universally accessible.
The dispute began in 2009, when people with disabilities and visual limitations were upset they couldn't get around easily on Mount Royal Avenue's sidewalks.
The following year, the Plateau borough imposed a 1.8-metre wide clearing so the sidewalks could be used.
There was, however, another problem: the borough authorized elevated terrasses without access ramps, making them inaccessible to wheelchair users.
Originally, the Plateau's Projet Montreal administration defended the move, saying that making all terrasses accessible was in some cases very difficult.
"We wanted to ensure that we could do everything that we could to minimize the cost and inconvenience for the merchants as well," said councillor Alex Norris.
The people with disabilities say they had no choice but to file a complaint against the borough with the Human Rights Commission last May.
"We were trying to tell them your terrasses are not accessible and this is discrimination and they didn't get that," said Laurence Parent, vice-president of the advocacy group RAPLIQ.
The commission ruled that almost every terrasse on Mount Royal Ave. must be wheelchair-accessible.
"It sets a precedent and with this victory I think that we can go very, very far," Parent said.
There are two establishments, Bar Inc. and Bily Kun, that will not have to comply with the bylaw because engineers have determined their terrasses cannot be made accessible to wheelchairs.
This story has been modified since it originally appeared.