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Improving access to local businesses ‘win-win’ for everyone

Removing barriers to accessibility opens doors to all.
Montreal - Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Removing barriers to accessibility opens doors to all.

By Jennifer Maccarone

In Quebec, more than 2 million people live with a disability. With our aging population, this number will be consistently growing over the next few years. The challenge of accessibility for people with reduced mobility is an ever-present issue that many citizens are unfortunately faced with every day.

Although a lot of work has been done in the last few years to allow better access for people with disabilities to local businesses, there’s still work to be done. For example, recommendations had been made on this very subject in 2017 subsequent to a mandate from the Commission on Economy and Labour at the National Assembly.

However, the situation is still an important concern. Even today a person with reduced mobility is denied access to a business due to the physical layout of the building. For example, the obligation to climb two steps to enter a building that doesn’t have an access ramp limits the possibility for a person in a wheelchair or with other limitations to gain access. For the citizen, it’s a constraint and a hindrance to his or her autonomy. For the business owner, it’s a loss of customers, and therefore a loss of revenue.

If access to local businesses is challenging for a person with reduced mobility as a customer, it’s equally challenging when it comes to access to employment. With such extreme labour shortages, we do not have the luxury of limiting access to employment due to an issue that could be easily resolved. Providing improved access to local businesses for people with limited mobility is a win-win situation for employers and employees alike.

For the past three years, millions of dollars in support for our local merchants have been lying dormant. Subjected to COVID-19 complications and difficulties, now more than ever we should consider making accessibility one of the levers to revive the economic vitality of our cities and towns. The debate regarding mobility through accessibility must be done with and for disabled people, under the conditions of strong calls to action by our legislators, including the Justice Department.

We cannot deprive ourselves of a motivated, persevering and hard-working workforce. We cannot deprive ourselves from including this important segment of the Quebec population in our planning. We cannot deny them a chance to live and to thrive.

That is why I am currently working on this important mandate in the National Assembly in an effort to advance the cause of our community. I sincerely hope that the government will accept my proposed initiative mandate with a goal toward building a better world for people with disabilities.

Jennifer Maccarone is the MNA for Westmount-Saint-Louis and the official opposition critic for Diversity and Inclusiveness, LGBTQ2 and Persons Living with a Disability or an Autism Spectrum Disorder.