Retail News Breaks Archives
Quebec food/drug chains to improve access for disabled
June 7th, 2013
MONTREAL – Six food and drug retail chains in Quebec have agreed to make their stores more accessible to people with disabilities in response to a study by the province's Commission des Droits de la Personne et des Droits de la Jeunesse (CDPDJ, or the Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission).
The commission said Thursday that its field study of 52 stores — including Loblaw Cos., Jean Coutu Group, Uniprix, Shoppers Drug Mart, Metro Richelieu and Sobeys outlets — examined the difficulties encountered by people with disabilities when they try to buy basic necessities and cited potential solutions.
People with visual or motor impairments, as well as commission staff, visited the pharmacies and supermarkets anonymously to assess their accessibility. The path to purchase — that is, from the parking lot to the entrance, from the entrance to aisles, from aisles to products, from products to checkout, and from checkout to the exit — was then assessed to develop a picture of the obstacles faced by people with disabilities.
Barriers identified in the study included obstructed aisles, handles of refrigerators and freezers that were too high to reach, checkout counters that were too high, pay terminals that were fixed or locked, and difficulty to get help when requested.
The commission then contacted representatives of the six chains to share its findings and explore a course of action to improve their stores' accessibility.
"This innovative project allowed us to advocate for universal access and to convince the chains to adopt significant measures that could improve access for people with disabilities. A large part of the population will also benefit from these measures," CDPDJ president Gaétan Cousineau said in a statement about the study, titled "Awareness Project: Towards Universal Access to Goods and Services in Pharmacies and Supermarkets."
The commission said that based on the study's findings, it made six requests to the chains: establish a policy on accessibility of stores and customer service; examine the barriers to accessibility in all stores and develop a plan to adapt the premises and services; develop a plan for immediate measures to eliminate barriers that can be easily dealt with; develop a training program for employees and assess its impact; create an accessibility plan for new stores; and monitor progress in terms of accessibility and report to the commission in a year.
According to the commission, the six chains voluntarily committed to implement detachable pay terminals in all stores; add accessibility awareness to new employee training; creating an annual week dedicated to people with disabilities, which would involve special daily activities; and call on disability rights groups to gauge the quality of their new stores.
The commission said it launched the study project after noticing a sharp rise in the number of complaints involving commercial establishments in recent years.
"As the population ages, more and more people will suffer some form of disability," Cousineau stated. " Better access to stores and other public places will therefore benefit everyone."