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Montreal is becoming more wheelchair accessible


An accessible parking sign is seen on the street. (Photo by: Courtney Verrill)
Online Exclusive posted Tuesday, March 14, 2017 - 9:24am

Montreal is planning on spending millions of dollars to make the city more accessible

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Accessibility around the world is not what it should be. Wheelchair users struggle to find a city that has good accessibility, making their travels more difficult than necessary. A lot of cities only have stairs, don’t have lifts to get into buses, and have air travel that is a wheelchair user’s nightmare. While many places aren’t doing anything to fix it, Montreal, Québec, Canada is on their way to making the city more accessible – starting with commercial buildings. 

The plan

This January, Montreal announced that over the next five years they are going to put $1.6 million towards improving their wheelchair accessibility around the city. Each year they are going to make 40 businesses more wheelchair friendly. They are planning to add wider doors for wheelchairs to fit through, make those doors automatic, and add more wheelchair ramps around the buildings.

Current accessibility in Montreal

According to New Mobility magazine, it is estimated that 60 percent of Montreal’s businesses are not accessible. Only nine metro stations on the orange line can be accessed by an elevator, the other four lines are not wheelchair accessible. The orange line in the metro system can be accessed by wheelchairs, but there is a size restriction. It is also suggested that wheelchair users only ride in the first car at the front of the train where there is an accessible area. You can ask for help from an metro system employee, also known as an STM companion, if needed, but the wait time for the companion can vary depending on how long it takes them to arrive. Last year, Montreal announced that 14 metro stations will be equipped with elevators by 2022, and once they are finished 31 out of 68 stations will be wheelchair accessible. Most buses are wheelchair accessible, with the exception of minibuses operated on Navette, shuttles, and the 212 – Sainte-Anne line. In December 2016, Montreal native and wheelchair user, Laurent Morisette, told CTV News Montreal that “getting around the city can be a challenge, especially during the winter months.” All of the sidewalks are accessible at the corners. Tourist sites are somewhat wheelchair friendly, but not completely. For example, The Old Port has sidewalks that are accessible by wheelchair, but the streets that are most popular and hold the most history are dreadful for wheelchair users. Montreal underground city is accessible by elevators and Saint Catherine Stress – Montreal’s main downtown street ­– has a number of shops and restaurants that are wheelchair accessible.

Is this enough?


An accessible parking sign is seen in a parking lot. (Photo by: Courtney Verrill)

Although this may seem like Montreal is in the right direction, many people are questioning if this work will be enough to make Montreal easily accessible. “Good news, but that’s it? 40 businesses per year? That’s way too small of a number for people lacking access to get excited over,” says Toula Drimonis, reporter at the Daily Hive. With these accommodations, Montreal will still not be the best and most accessible city. For example, Berlin, Germany has been said to be one of the most accessible cities as the transit system is fully and effortlessly accessible to all wheelchair users, almost all theatres and museums are fully accessible, as well a majority of the restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions. While Montreal is making their way in the right direction, there is still much more that needs to be done. 

How it compares to the United States

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has rules and regulations about making public businesses accessible for everyone. They establish requirements for 12 categories of public accommodations, including stores, shops, restaurants, bars, service establishments, theaters, hotels, recreation facilities, private museums, schools and others. This includes removing architectural barriers that don’t match the ADA Standards, accessible parking, accessible entrances, and more. The U.S. is still not perfect, as there are still many difficulties when it comes to accessibility for wheelchair users. Canada does not have something similar to the ADA. They have the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees people with disabilities the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination, and the Canadian Human rights act which also forbids discrimination, but nothing that makes accessibility necessary in governments and businesses.

 

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Montreal is becoming more wheelchair accessible

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