Reasonable accommodation

Refusal of a permit to install a lift platform: a sad ending (2013)

In this file, our office recommended Arrondissement de Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie to issue a permit for the installation of a lift platform in front of a residential building. This platform would have allowed two (2) spouses to continue to live in the dwelling they had been occupying for about thirty (30) years, on the second floor of a building, despite their respective disabilities.


In our opinion, the proposed project met the requirements of the Borough’s Urban Planning By-law which expressly authorize the installation of lift platforms in front of buildings. The project only involved minor modifications to the balcony and to the ramp and would not have affected the structure or the components of the building. According to us, therefore, the permit should have been issued by right, but the Borough disagreed.


Moreover, in the event that the project did not meet all the By-law requirements, we submitted that the permit should be granted as a reasonable accommodation because the platform was necessary to overcome the citizens’ disabilities and the Borough had a legal duty to accommodate. The approval of the project would not have generated any undue hardship for the Borough and would not have affected its financial or material capacity. Moreover, the platform would not have infringed the rights or the safety of others.


The Borough, however, refused to issue the permit.


The Borough asserted that it had offered an alternative solution as a reasonable accommodation, namely the installation of the platform behind the building with a possible commitment that the Borough would take care of snow removal in the public alley and on the private property. In our opinion, however, the installation of the lift platform behind the building was an inadequate solution given the configuration of the premises, the harshness of Québec winters, the difficulties related to snow removal of the accesses and given the path citizens would have to follow to reach adapted transport vehicles or the nearest street.


We addressed questions to the Borough regarding its interpretation of the By-law and on the reasonableness of the solution it had proposed. The Borough provided no response nor did it provide other information to demonstrate that its own proposal really qualified as a “reasonable” accommodation:


• The Borough does not seem to have made specific verifications to ensure that the installation of a platform behind the building was feasible from a material and regulatory perspective;


• The Borough did not provide any specifications confirming concrete measures it was willing to commit to, so as to ensure the snow removal in the alley and the plaintiffs’ backyard. The Borough acknowledged that the snow removal in this alley would not be a priority and did not indicate a maximum time frame for this snow removal to be done so that the plaintiffs could go about their business, including medical appointments.


Ultimately, the Borough’s resistance paid off. Given the impossibility of finding an acceptable solution to their mobility problem before the following winter, the plaintiffs decided to leave the neighbourhood they have been living in for over thirty (30) years and moved to the south shore.


We find such ending deplorable in a city like Montréal which normally shines through as a model of inclusion.


Considering the aging of the population, our office will remain vigilant to prevent such situations to reoccur.


We understand the constraints related to urban planning and the importance of harmonious urban development, but the City must also be open and promote a more inclusive approach to the growing needs of citizens with functional limitations.