featured Inclusion

Warren (Gus) Reed: Waiting 14 months and counting for the simple right to wash my hands

This article was originally posted on the website of the James McGregor Stewart Society. Re-posted with permission.  

Having fought since July 26, 2016 (1215 days) for the simple right to wash my hands at provincially licensed restaurants, it’s pretty ironic that I just spent 6  nights in hospital with a nasty case of Norovirus.

See also: Victory for wheelchair users in human rights case, and another embarrassment for the NS Human Rights Commission

Personal hygiene (hand washing) is the only way to manage Norovirus.

Norovirus was already on the boat when we boarded in Memphis, TN – some continuing passengers were quarantined and the crew was frantically wiping every exposed surface (with the wrong stuff).  There was a note on the bed to wash hands with soap and water.

It is the unvarnished truth that you cannot maintain clean hands while using a manual wheelchair.  You accidentally touch the tires while exiting the men’s room. The tires rub your winter coat. People are constantly touching you inadvertently.

It took me two days to succumb.  Truly violent symptoms all morning in our tiny cabin.  The on-board EMT called the ambulance.

Five nights in the hospital with very little progress, then a mad dash for the flight home and another night in a hospital.

Five Nova Scotians tried to beat some sense into the mostly impenetrable brains of government officials, inspectors and restauranteurs through a Human Rights Complaint, which they won in September, 2018

It is 14 months since the government announced a fast track action plan:

“The province will not appeal the Sept. 6 decision of a human rights board of inquiry.

The Department of Environment was ordered to require restaurants to have accessible washrooms in order to comply with the food safety regulations, unless that requirement can be shown to cause undue hardship*.

The province will fast track an action plan that will ensure the human rights decision is implemented in a timely fashion. This plan will be developed in collaboration with stakeholders, including the disability community and the restaurant industry.”

*The words “undue hardship” do not appear in the order.

Working feverishly at their usual glacial pace, the government is doubtless wrestling with the completely made-up notion of ‘undue hardship’ – figuring how to allow non-compliant restaurants to continue if their fiscal affairs are marginal.  This seems like s fool’s errand, since about 80% of restaurants fail within five years of opening……

But no ‘undue hardship’ for me?  Being excluded from public health regulation isn’t ‘undue hardship’?  Was projectile vomiting that Crab Bisque ‘undue hardship’? How about “We’re just giving this Vancomycin to make sure you don’t get CDiff and die on us”.  Or “No worries, this heart monitor is just a precaution”.

For the cheap, irresponsible and, frankly, dangerous restaurant industry, ‘undue hardship’ means ‘We’re broke and can’t observe public health regulations.  Sorry. Here’s a bucket.’ Having an accessible washroom will mean bankruptcy. I say good riddance to unhealthy restaurants!

For me ‘undue hardship means ‘I wonder if there are easier way to die……’.

Any attempt to incorporate the notion of ‘undue hardship’ into regulations is clearly directed at people with disabilities, discriminatory and crying out for a Human Rights Complaint.

Good luck with that!

See also: Restorative injustice: Still waiting for accessible restaurant washrooms one year after human rights decision

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