In late January the city of Montreal announced a $1.6 million program to improve wheelchair accessibility features throughout its commercial business industry. Currently it is estimated that 60 percent of the city’s businesses are not completely accessible, and this new program is expected to help make 40 businesses a year for five years more accessible.
“The Business Accessibility Assistance Program will improve the quality of life of the entire community, which is a constant concern within the Montréal urban agglomeration,” said Mayor Coderre. “Helping senior citizens and persons with reduced mobility shows respect for differences as well as highlights the abilities and potential of each member of the community.”
City official Monique Vallée adds that business owners can use the funds to make entrances more accessible, as well as bathrooms. “Optimizing accessibility to businesses and services throughout the Montreal region is an important issue in order to provide an inclusive living environment for all residents,” she says.
Not everyone agrees that Montreal is doing enough to help make a significant impact on its businesses’ inaccessibility. “Montreal will be spending a total of $1.6 million over five years to add wider doors that open automatically and wheelchair ramps. The city expects that approximately 40 projects per year will be funded this way,” wrote Toula Drimonis for the Daily Hive. “Good news, but that’s it? Forty businesses per year? That’s way too small of a number for people lacking access to get excited over.”
Still, from a U.S. perspective, it’s surprising that a city would set aside funds to help its businesses become accessible at all. The U.S. model holds that accessibility is a civil right and part of the cost of doing business, so it is up to each business to comply. Currently there is no Canadian version of the Americans with Disabilities Act, although there has been movement over the past year toward creating a Canadians with Disabilities Act.