Victory for the disabled

One round in wider campaign. Pharmaprix outlets to make debit-card readers more accessible

MONTREAL – After winning a battle with Pharmaprix over inaccessible debit-card readers, Montreal disability-rights activist Linda Gauthier is looking for another fight.  “We’re going to go further with this,” Gauthier said yesterday,  following a recently brokered agreement with the drugstore giant. “It’s very important that other retailers are aware of this and change their practices.”  Following a June agreement with the Quebec Human Rights Commission, Pharmaprix, operated by Ontariobased Shoppers Drug Mart Corp., is to ensure all of its stores’ cash registers have movable debit-card readers.

“It’s a terrific victory for us, I’m very, very happy,” Gauthier said.  “I wanted to win this battle very badly. I would have gone to the Supreme Court if I had to.”  To prevent debit information theft, many retailers have attached their card readers to an immovable metal base at the store checkout counter.  But that practice discriminates against certain disabled customers -such as those in wheelchairs -who can’t easily reach the counter, says the Confederation des organismes de personnes handicapees du Quebec.

In January, Gauthier, who uses a wheelchair, filed a complaint with the commission after she couldn’t securely access the reader at a Pharmaprix in the city’s east end. But her fight actually started in 2007, when she’d go store to store in her Plateau Mont Royal neighbourhood urging retailers to switch to a movable card reader.  Gauthier said Pharmaprix debit-card readers would now be connected by a spiral cord that would be very difficult for criminals to cut.  Commission president Gaetan Cousineau urged other retailers to make debit-card readers accessible to their disabled clientele.  “I would like to congratulate the parties for quickly reaching this agreement,” he said in a statement.  During the 2009-2010 fiscal year, the commission said it opened 178 files based on complaints of disability-related discrimination. This represents a quarter of the commission’s caseload and its second-most-frequently  received complaint.

alampert@thegazette.canwest.com

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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