November 19, 2018

People in wheelchairs often frustrated by lack of access to mall change rooms.

By TORIE ROTH

Wheelchair accessible fitting rooms are not that accessible.

Have you ever went shopping for clothing in the mall and noticed that the fitting room you tried to use is already being used as storage? Katie Schmidt has.

Schmidt is a first-year journalism print student at Conestoga College who uses a wheelchair. Visiting clothing stores in Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener and various malls in Toronto, she has discovered that fitting rooms are not easy for her to use.

“The fact that these stores are getting away with using their wheelchair-accessible change rooms for storage is unacceptable,” said Schmidt. “Not only is it disappointing for customers like me who would like to purchase items from these stores, it is a human rights violation.”

The Toronto Accessibility Design Guidelines website says the guidelines are based on the human rights principles of respect, dignity and inclusion. The guidelines are a key component of the city’s accessibility plan and meet the city’s objectives under its Plan of Action for the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination.

The city’s official plan states they are a key city-building principle that public buildings, parks and open spaces should be open and accessible to all members of the public.”
Specifically, it states “A wheelchair-accessible change room must be in all stores along with a clear floor space allowing a person using a wheelchair to make a 180-degree turn.”

Not only is Schmidt upset about the fitting rooms, she is also worried about access to the stores in general.

“I tried to go into one store and had to move all of the tables out of my way in order to get through,” she said. “They had set up all of their tables in the middle of the floor.  It was even difficult for walkers to get through.  Thankfully the tables were on wheels, so they were easier to move out of the way.”

There is another rule regarding space in the accessibility guidelines. It states “Equipment and furniture can result in tripping hazards and limited movement. Aisle and corridor widths can also be obstructed limiting the maneuverability of persons using mobility aids so, these should be removed.”

In stores in the mall, these rules are not being abided by. It is the law for every store to keep the fitting rooms open for the community so that when a person needs it, he or she may use it without obstacles.

“Issues like this simply show the lack of employee training regarding disabled customers,” said Schmidt.

“Accessibility is not a government sector; it is private and based on a personal complaint,” said a person (who refused to give her name) who answered the phone at the Office of Equity, Diversity and Human Rights. “We suggest that the person say they will take their business elsewhere, or ask if your money is not as good as the money of a person without a mobile disability.”

“It’s so frustrating and offensive that things like this still happen in today’s society. We have come a long way in terms of equality and accessibility, but we still have a long way to go,” Schmidt said.

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