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August 5, 2012

Chickenburger, Round II

Bill Power is a business reporter at the Chronicle Herald

Dear Mr. Power,

Thanks for the fair and balanced article "No wheelchair access at Chickenburger" which appeared in Friday's Chronicle Herald.  By the time it appeared on the Internet, it was retitled "Chickenburger will be accessible, owner says".  I take that to be a good sign and I look forward to ending my fast.

In my email exchanges with Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Anguish of HRM there was no hint that the occupancy permit for Chickenburger was "temporary" - in fact there is no mention of a thing called a "temporary Occupancy Permit"  in By-law B201.  Someone's pulling our wheel and/or leg.

I did think that Ms. Tissington's comments about wheelchair users having to dodge sandwich boards and canvassers were irrelevant. Everyone faces these distractions, but real barriers affect people who are disabled.  If the Spring Garden Road Business Association had an ongoing concern with wheelchair access, as she asserts, you'd think someone in that group of 220 merchants would have acquired a portable ramp for $100.  That would be a completely adequate and legal solution for a place like Jennifer's or Fid.  No permit required.

Mr. MacDonald isn't really the culprit.  HRM has unevenly enforced the barrier-free provisions of the building code, fiercely applying them on occasion, but winking on other occasions, like this one.  Although I asked Mr. Anguish 3 times:
  1. can you tell me the exact provision of the building code which allows this circumstance?
  2. I do not find the ambiguities you mention in the Building Code Regulations, which is why I asked for the exact provision which allowed this construction to go forward.
  3. If there is some provision that allows the exceptions made for Chickenburger, or if I have misinterpreted the Building Code I hope you will correct me.
I have not received a single response to this very specific question and I am led to conclude there is no such provision.

Taking the argument one step further, the granting of permanent exemptions to places like  the Hydrostone Market  or Five Fishermen is tantamount to stealing from disabled taxpayers to support businesses that discriminate against them.  Businesses get fire and police protection, sewer and water, even the delivery of customers by public transport, all at public expense.  You might find a by-law allowing snow-plows to skip the streets of those pesky Chronicle Herald employees discriminatory.  You might even get angry at the thought that you're paying for everyone else's clean street.

My Councilor, Dawn Sloane, has been copied on all correspondence with HRM,  yet she has failed to weigh in on an issue of fundamental fairness.  Too busy?

In the Olympics this year are a low-vision archer, a runner with no legs and a ping-pong player with no right arm.  Halifax's gold medalist paralympian sailor couldn't get into Salvatore's.  Time to rethink.

Gus Reed

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