Disabled Denied Access to Tim Hortons Violates His Human Rights

Dave Matthews can’t get a Tim Horton’s coffee due to his mobility disability

Access to public places should be a guarantee under Canadian law but some businesses don’t believe access is a right

Stephen Pate, NJN Network, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada, June 21, 2009 with story from
CBC News(http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nova-scotia/story/2009/06/15/hortons-scooter.html?ref=rss)

CBC Halifax reported the story of Dave Matthews from Lower Sackville who cannot get a coffee from a local Tim Horton’s donut shop. Matthews claims the Tim’s is discriminating against him on the basis of his disability. Tim Horton’s is discriminating in our opinion.

Canada’s system of semi-voluntary accommodation and human rights tribunals puts us decades behind the United States, Britain and the Eurpean Union who have
put disability rights front and centre.

Matthews has limited mobility and cannot walk into a Tim Horton’s store. The store does not accommodate scooters like Dave’s inside due to the store size and layout. Not all Tim’s are that size and layout – some are big enough for scooters.

Tim’s did allow Dave to drive through the drive-through but changed their policy

“The attendant wouldn’t serve him because of a company policy banning pedestrians, bicycles and wheelchairs, including motorized scooters, from using the drive-thru. Matthews says that means no coffee for him, because he can’t manoeuvre his scooter through the front door.”

While the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms seems to protect against discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race and disability among other grounds, it was left to the Provinces and the Courts to enforce human rights.

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Act(http://www.gov.ns.ca/legislature/legc/statutes/humanrt.htm) is fairly clear at section 5 (1),

No person shall in respect of (a) the provision of or access to services or facilities…discriminate against an individual or class of individuals on account of… (o) physical disability or mental disability

Tim Horton’s, like all public places that provide services to the public, cannot discriminate. They cannot provide access and services to able bodied people while not providing reasonable accommodation to someone in a wheelchair or scooter. They also cannot refuse to serve women, blacks, gays, people of different races. The rules on discrimination are clear.

That a publicly charitable company such as Tim Horton’s would discriminate shows poor judgment along with a lack of willingness to obey the law. Does Tim Horton’s only express the affinity with disabled children such as the Easter Seal’s Ambassador? There is an apparent double standard when businesses use the disabled for publicity but don’t allow them access to their stores.

Matthews will have to file a complaint and wait for it to process through the human rights tribunal. A recent complaint settled in 2009 took six years to reach a decision. PEI has a similar record of taking five or more years to settle these issues. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Considering most people with disabilities don’t have the financial resources to hire lawyers and the energy to pursue long term court cases, disability discrimination is rarely decided in favour of the disabled and often goes unchallenged.

In the United States the disabled have more proactive rights with the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act and its enforcement agency the EEOC. The ADA was recently amended with 1,100 pages of new regulations that make it a summary offense to not provide access and reasonable accommodation. This is backed
up by stiff fines and enforcement officers.

Canada’s system of semi-voluntary accommodation and human rights tribunals puts us decades behind the United States, Britain and the Eurpean Union who have put disability rights front and centre.

A man from Lower Sackville, N.S., is threatening to take Tim Hortons to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission because he can no longer get his coffee.

CBC.ca

Dave Matthews needs a motorized scooter to get around because of a physical disability.

He used to get his coffee at the Tim Hortons drive-thru in Lower Sackville. But at a new location, in Bedford, he ran into trouble.

The attendant wouldn’t serve him because of a company policy banning pedestrians, bicycles and wheelchairs, including motorized scooters, from using the drive-thru. Matthews says that means no coffee for him, because he can’t manoeuvre his scooter through the front door.

“It would take three people to get me in. And I don’t even know if I’ll be able to turn around when I get inside. And, if I don’t run over somebody inside trying to back this up, it would be a small miracle,” Matthews said.

Dave Matthews says he can’t manoeuvre his scooter through the front door of Tim Hortons. (CBC)

Matthews said it’s a matter of rights, arguing that he should be able to use the drive-thru.

“It’s clear stupidity. That people can’t be that tolerant [about] people’s condition,” he said.

A Tim Hortons spokesman, David Morelli, said it’s too dangerous for scooters in the drive-thru because sometimes patrons drive fast while leaving the window.

Morelli said he will be reminding all of the Tim Hortons stores about the policy.

Corrections and Clarifications

• Dave Matthews has clarified that his real concern is not so much being able to get coffee, but that Canada does not have a disability act, and so his only resource is to file a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. June 19, 2009|11:48 a.m. ET

Reproduced from http://www.njnnetwork.com/njn/?p=14065