The universe is continuing the theme…
There's a bit of a celebration going on this weekend and although I normally don't partake of alcohol (it gives me headaches), I decided to go in search of a particular product. I first learned of Woody's pink grapefruit cooler when it was handed out free on the street (yes, really). It's delicious, refreshing, and because I don't normally partake of alcohol, I was tipsy within three sips. My four-pack is going to last me years. So… I went to the local LCBO, which is a brand-new store just opened. Once inside, you can tell that they might still be cleaning up after the construction or are not quite finished, but there is stock and employees and that was all I needed.
This brand-new store is on the ground floor of an old building and was completely gutted and renovated prior to opening. You’d figure it out what with the relatively new Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the even newer customer service regulations that, as I mentioned on Tuesday, came into effect in January of this year, that such a brand-new store would be a paragon of accessibility, right?
How many of you just sighed?
There are several doors one can use to get in and each has an automatic door opener. There’s a lip of an inch or two by each door and cement has been applied making a bit of a ramp. One’s fine, the other’s too steep. Fine. At least I have a choice of doors. I push a door opener. It didn't work and was in fact blocked by the display on the inside, but that could be due to them not being quite organized yet. I try another button which was just fine and I entered the store.
Just inside the door, I am directly by various signage that the way to enter the store itself is on my left. I turn. And swear, not quite under my breath. Remember the anti-theft gate that Metro installed? The one that consists of two horizontal bars that the customer has to push through in order to enter? Said horizontal bars being at a height where a person in a wheelchair would have to force them with their chest? You guessed it. The new LCBO store has one.
I turn around and look behind me. The access from the cash area to the little vestibule before the entrance/exit is open and I go through that, slightly cranky already. Once inside the store, I am impressed with the width of the aisles and the general lack of clutter, which makes it easy for me to move around in the store. I meet a very helpful employee who finds my four-pack of Woody’s and head towards the cash. At the cash, I am pleased to discover a fairly low counter and - get this! - a detachable pin pad!! I am now considerably less cranky.
And now for getting out. I go into the small vestibule-ish area to get to the entrance/exit and look for the automatic door opener. And swear again. Problem #1: the automatic door opener is placed at about my eye height, which assumes that I have full mobility in my upper body. Which an awful lot of people with disabilities do not. However, as the Ontario Building Code specifies that this height is okay, I'm going to cut the LCBO a bit of slack. When it comes to Problem #2, I am decidedly not going to cut them any slack. To illustrate part of the discussion of Problem #2, I messed around in Photoshop to provide a pictoral aid (most of which is admittedly a terribly bilious green colour, but that sort of matches how I feel about the whole thing. Also, dimensions of door openings are not scalable because… Well. I needed to move on with this post)
The blue lines are doors - along the top are the entrance/exit separate by a wall (black line) and the tiny green lines in the upper left and upper right corners are the automatic door openers. Do you see the problem?
Uh-huh. They are placed all the way up against the 90° corner, right next to the front door. Imagine you are using a wheelchair or scooter. How would you reach these buttons?
Who in their right mind would decide to put the buttons there?? This placement assumes that you can lean forward really far, have completely normal mobility and dexterity in your arms, not to mention that said arms resemble those of an orangutan in length. Because otherwise how would you reach the button, which is located at about the height of your head?
And do you want to hear the really, really ridiculous thing? On the LCBO website, there is a comprehensive section on the LCBO and accessibility. Yes. Really. In this section, right at the top, they outline their commitment to accessibility:
"In fulfilling our mission, the LCBO strives at all times to provide its goods and services in a way that respects the dignity and independence of people with disabilities. We are also committed to giving people with disabilities the same opportunity to access our goods and services and allowing them to benefit from the same services, in the same place and in a similar way as other customers."
I have bolded the terms that are really important. And it makes me want to bang my head against the wall again, because they have clearly tried in so many ways. Aisles are nice and wide, staff is incredibly helpful, they’d even thought about low cash counters and detachable pin pads (trust me, this is huge). But here's the thing - and I'm going to do this in a separate paragraph and bold it for emphasis:
If I cannot enter or exit your store independently or with dignity (hint: pushing open an antitheft gate with my bosom is not dignified), I do not have the same opportunity to access your store in a similar way as other customers.
Considering that the store is located in a neighbourhood that has a much higher than normal rate of people using mobility aids, this is bound in losing customers. Not to mention there might be a little problem with any claims of being in compliance with AODA.
Maybe Carrie is right. I need to hire myself out as an accessibility inspector.