Universal Access

70-cm Sidewalk – Universal Accessibility and Safety (2018)

Service des infrastructures, de la voirie et des transports and Arrondissement du Plateau-Mont-Royal

The sidewalk bordering the De Brébeuf bicycle path, alongside Parc Laurier, used to be 1.6 metre-wide: in 2015, its width is reduced to 0.7 metre.

Two advocacy groups (Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Montréal Métropolitain (RAAMM) and Regroupement des activistes pour l’inclusion au Québec (RAPLIQ)) seek the OdM intervention: they claim that the new design is not universally accessible nor safe.

This investigation proves to be a lengthy one.

♦  This redesign of this sidewalk occurred as part of a project aimed at making the bicyle path safer.

♦  The original concept called for a wider bicycle path and the addition of a divider between the path and the street: to that end, some parking spaces were to be removed. The old sidewalk was to be left intact.

♦  Before these works start, some elected officials insist that all parking spaces be maintained: the concept is, therefore, reviewed. The new design will encroach on the sidewalk rather than on the parking spaces: the 1.6-metre sidewalk becomes a 0.7-metre asphalt strip.

♦  This new strip is clearly not universally accessible. It does not live up to the commitments set out in the Politique municipale d’accessibilité universelle and in the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities.

♦  This result is even more problematic since this sidewalk leads to a swimming pool which was redeveloped at great cost by the City, so as to make it accessible to people with reduced mobility (Sir-Wilfrid- Laurier pool, in Parc Laurier).

♦  Moreover, the new design does not meet the City’s usual standards for sidewalks (minimum width of 1.5 metres – generally 1.7 metres) or borders (generally 0.2 metre).

♦  During our visits, we note that many pedestrians walk on this narrow strip as if it were a sidewalk, including parents with strollers and children as well. These pedestrians get very close to cyclists who often move at a good speed. The situation raises safety concerns.

♦  The Service des infrastructures, de la voirie et des transports is in agreement with our comments. Its Direction des transports works out various scenarios to improve the situation and conveys them to the Borough. We discuss the various options all together.

♦  In 2018, the City confirms that the strip will be widened, on the street side. The new sidewalk will be universally accessible again and safer for all users; it will also comply with the usual development standards. The redesign will have no adverse impact on Parc Laurier’s vegetation.

♦  In view of the long delays since the launch of this investigation, the OdM stresses the importance of doing this work as fast as possible. Some prior steps are necessary (finalizing the Plans and Specifications; launching a Call for Tenders and awarding the contract). The City expects an implementation in 2019. The OdM will follow up.



Universal Accessibility (2017)

Charter Files

For many years, universal accessibility of Ville de Montréal buildings and installations has been a topic of considerable interest to the OdM. We intervene on a regular basis to improve site accessibility and to ensure that universal accessibility is addressed by the City at the outset of any project.

Some of these long-term files were closed in 2017. Here is a summary of them.

Quartier des spectacles – Phases 1 to 3

We intervened in 2010 following a complaint highlighting accessibility and security issues for persons with reduced mobility.

An independent monitoring study is then conducted by the City, in 2012: several gaps in universal accessibility and security are identified, particularly at intersections.

The City thereafter begins planning for corrective measures.

We follow up on an ad-hoc basis on the implementation of these measures.

Some of these improvements are now completed: markings were added to steps to make them easier to detect; an unprotected higher level is now blocked by street furniture; lighting was added near a dark passageway; etc.

Furthermore, the City has confirmed that additional improvements will be brought in 2018 for safer street-crossing in the Quartier des spectacles: audio-signal traffic lights; addition of tactile paving stones and of pedestrian crossing markings; etc.

Following this commitment, our office closed this file. We will, however, ensure that the undertakings are complied with.

Quartier des spectacles – Final Phase – Esplanade Clark

In light of its previous interventions, the OdM deems it appropriate to initiate a preventive file to ensure that universal accessibility is addressed and integrated upstream at the project’s outset.

The Service de la culture de Montréal confirms that it has mandated the expertise of an external organization in order to better integrate the universal accessibility component in the development of Esplanade Clark. This expert organization is associated with every design phase of the project and intervenes on universal accessibility issues throughout the entire process. The OdM therefore closes the file.

Other Files Under Investigation

Bicycle Path Alongside Boulevard de Maisonneuve, in the Quartier des spectacles

In the course of our intervention in the Quartier des spectacles, we find out that the surrounding bicycle path reveals security issues: the potential for conflict between pedestrians and cyclists is of particular concern. We decide to intervene to explore possible solutions with the City in order to resolve the problematic findings. This intervention is still ongoing.

Restaurant Terraces on Public Land – Arrondissement de Ville-Marie

Since 2013, we have taken an interest in universal accessibility of terraces installed on public land in some areas of Arrondissement de Ville-Marie: the pedestrian area in the Village (Sainte-Catherine Street between Saint-Hubert and Papineau), in Place Jacques-Cartier and on Saint-Paul Street in Old-Montréal.

Several terraces were not complying with universal accessibility standards: lack of access ramps or impassable ramps; insufficient clearance on terraces to allow for the flow of pedestrians with reduced mobility, etc.

Five summer seasons have elapsed since we first intervened. The Borough has gradually reviewed its approach and adopted control procedures to ensure universal accessibility on terraces located on public land. At first, progress was little. However, we noticed major improvements in 2015, 2016 and 2017, particularly in the Village area.

This file was closed at the end of summer 2017. In view of the Borough’s efficient follow-ups, our intervention is no longer deemed necessary. Nonetheless, our renewed intervention on this matter is not ruled out if warranted.

Access to Montréal City Hall

Two of the pedestrian entrances that were considered accessible by the City were problematic: the Gosford Street entrance and the entrance located at the back of the building, on Champ-de-Mars.

Gosford Street Access

The installation was not optimal: it has since been improved. Snow removal operation gaps are also less frequent. This entrance is sometimes outright closed in winter, due to possible snowfall from the roof. We intervene on an ad-hoc basis, as needed, to ensure that at least one accessible entrance remains available and there adequate signage to redirect citizens.

Back Entrance

This entrance was hardly conducive to wheelchair access: lack of an automatic door opener, drop at the threshold, doorbell/intercom located too high to be reached. Our office concludes that improvements are required.

In 2015, the City confirms with us the following remedies: the threshold will be levelled; the doorbell/intercom will be lowered; exterior signs announcing the accessible entrance will be added. We undertake several follow-ups.

A new camera/doorbell/intercom system is installed in 2016: the height of this installation is adequate from a universal accessibility viewpoint.

The scheduled installation of exterior signs is done in 2016.

However, the City notifies us that the installation of an automatic door opener and the levelling of the marble threshold will not be performed before major renovation of City Hall takes place, as of 2018. We recognize that this constraint can be reasonable regarding the automatic door opener.

However, the threshold drop is still of concern to us: we insist that a temporary solution be put in place and suggest that a sloping metal plate be installed.

This sloping metal plate is finally installed in front of the actual threshold in 2017: a wheelchair can therefore go through this door without having to deal with the drop.

Furthermore, the City confirms that handicapped persons who shows up at this entrance can ask the post officer for help by using the intercom or doorbell. The officers have been directed accordingly.

This temporary compromise is acceptable. We close our file.

However, we plan on intervening in 2018 to ensure that the universal accessibility component will be integrated in the planning of City Hall renovation work, namely for the back entrance.

Place Vauquelin

In 2017, the entire Place Vauquelin was rebuilt and levelled to match the thresholds of the access doors. Thus, there are no longer steps or drop to deal with to access City Hall through this entrance.

Moreover, the installation of the new zigzag-shaped ramp that now links Place Vauquelin to Champ-de-Mars (whose level is lower) was adjusted to take into account the comments we submitted to increase safety.

Service de la culture – Quartier des spectacles – Universal access – Charter file (2015)

Since 2010, we make regular follow-ups with the managers of the Quartier des spectacles in order to improve accessibility and safety on site, for people with functional limitations.  We insist on the importance of considering this aspect at the earliest stage, before construction of the different facilities.  This file is still underway.

In 2012, the City mandated a specialized firm to conduct a Monitoring study on the universal access of the site.  Observations and analysis of the movements of people, with or without functional limitations, confirmed several problems, particularly at corners.  Some of these problems, such as pedestrian / cyclist conflicts, may affect all users.

Following this study, the City undertook the planning of corrective measures.  Some were completed but there is still much to do to improve the existing facilities.  Our office, therefore, is keeping this file active.

The pedestrian / cyclist conflicts at corners and along boulevard de Maisonneuve are of particular concern for our office.

We also want to ensure that for the “Clark Esplanade” project, which is the last phase of the Quartier des spectacles, the City will integrate the required universal access elements for all types of limitations, from the planning stage.

Arrondissement de Ville-Marie – Terraces on the public domain – Universal access – Charter file (2015)

Since the spring of 2013, we regularly intervene to improve the universal access of terraces located in two key areas of Arrondissement de Ville-Marie, namely Old-Montréal (Place Jacques-Cartier and Saint-Paul Street) and the pedestrian section of Sainte-Catherine Street in the Village (between Saint-Hubert Street and Papineau Avenue).

Many terraces do not meet the universal access standards:  lack of an access ramp or impracticable ramp; insufficient clearance to allow the movement of people with disabilities; etc.

The Borough gradually improved its approach and intensified its follow-ups.  These efforts provided results.  During the summer of 2015, we noted marked improvements.

Our office will pursue its follow-ups and pay particular attention to the Saint-Paul Street reconstruction project and to the revamping of Place Jacques-Cartier.  We want to make sure that the new facilities located on the public domain, namely terraces, respect the universal access standards and good practices.

Universal access in Quartier des Spectacles (2010)

Since the end of 2010, our office has closely followed the measures underway to resolve various universal access and safety problems affecting disabled people in the new Quartier des spectacles. Since our initial intervention, managers in charge and groups representing different types of disabled people have intensified their discussions, the whole in accordance with the Politique municipale d’accessibilité universelle in which Ville de Montréal committed to promote an active partnership with community organizations.


In 2012, a specialized firm was appointed to study the movements of people with or without functional limitations, in this area. This study was conducted over a period of seven (7) months and included a survey of people with functional limitations.


The study confirmed the presence of universal access and safety problems in this area, particularly at road intersections. Different corrective measures were put forward: some were implemented in 2013 and others should be in 2014.


We will continue to follow up on this file to ensure that safety problems are resolved and that all realistic and reasonable solutions are implemented so as to improve universal access to the site, in conformity with the Politique municipale d’accessibilité universelle and with section 28 f) of the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities.

Parking space reserved for handicapped people – Choice of location (2011)

A citizen complained about the fact that a parking space reserved for a handicapped person was set up in front of her residence: this would be prejudicial to her business located on the ground floor. She requested that this parking space be moved in front of the residence of the handicapped person who requested this parking space.

The mechanism used by the neighbour to gain access to his vehicle with his wheelchair is located behind the said vehicle: a clearance zone of at least 2 meters is therefore required, for the deployment of the system and the wheelchair access.

If the reserved parking space was in front of this neighbour’s residence, it would be necessary to encroach on a second parking space to offer the required clearance. As for the chosen location, in front of the plaintiff’s residence, it is at the end of the street: therefore, there is enough space behind it, without having to encroach on a second parking space.

Considering the scarceness of street parking spaces for all citizens, Arrondissement de Rosemont-La Petite Patrie’s decision, that limit the impact of this set-up to only one parking space, seems justified.

Grab rails – Bathroom adapted for the handicapped – Ville de Montréal City Hall (2010)

In February 2010, the OMBUDSMAN DE MONTRÉAL requested from the Présidence du Conseil de la Ville, which is responsible for managing the City Hall, that it installs grab rails in the adapted bathroom located on the ground floor of the building. This request followed the recent installation by our office, in early 2010, of an automated door opening system which provides persons with reduced mobility an easy access to this bathroom.

A major project for the upgrading of the City Hall ground floor already provides for modifications to this bathroom, to improve its accessibility. When these changes will be actually completed, however, remain unknown and in our opinion, the installation of grab rails should not wait.

After many follow-up calls, over a few months, these rails were finally installed: as a result, the manoeuvers of handicapped people using this bathroom have become easier and safer.

Universal access to Montréal’s City Hall (2009)

Ville de Montréal takes to heart the universal accessibility to its buildings. In spite of all the efforts displayed, nonetheless, the Ombudsman de Montréal noticed improvements that were required in order to ensure adequate access to the City Hall, for users with reduced mobility.

Adequate signs

Three entrance doors are frequently used by citizens to access City Hall: one on Gosford Street, another, the main one, on Notre-Dame Street and a third, on Place Vauquelin. It is on this last door that a wheelchair access ramp and an automated door opening system are currently installed.

Yet, when a person in a wheelchair came to either of the other two entrance doors that are not wheelchair accessible, they found no indication whatsoever pointing towards the adapted entrance located on Place Vauquelin. At the request of the Ombudsman de Montréal, signs have been installed in this regard, all around the building.

Adapted entrance available at City Hall, regardless of construction work

We also noticed that the adapted entrance on Place Vauquelin was sometimes blocked for long periods of time, by contractors doing repair work on the building.

The Ombudsman de Montréal intervened again and she obtained an undertaking that, in spite of construction work that can occur at City Hall, contractors will be required to keep an adapted entrance accessible for wheelchairs at all times and, if the need arises, to install temporary signs informing citizens of the new location of a temporary adapted entrance.

Information on the Web

Before leaving home, citizens with reduced mobility will often search, on the City’s Web site, the location of the adapted access for people in wheelchairs: unfortunately, this information was not easy to find.

At our request, this information is now more accessible: it can be found in the Sherlock files posted on the City’s Web site and also under the “Accès Simple” heading. We also added this information on the Ombudsman de Montréal‘s Web site, under the heading “Contact” .

Adapted bathroom for handicapped people – Ground floor of City Hall – Automated door opening system

Some handicapped persons using the adapted bathroom located on the ground floor of City Hall had complained that this bathroom was difficult for them to use because, namely, of its heavy wooden door. These people often needed to ask for the help of a passerby so as to open the door for them when they enter and exit the bathroom.

Our investigation showed that the City planned to eventually improve accessibility in this bathroom, but only when it would renovate/upgrade the building, in the coming years: the improvement project, however, did not include the installation of an automated door opening system for this bathroom.

This is the only bathroom adapted for handicapped persons at City Hall and, therefore, this long delay, as well as the nature of the changes that were planned, did not seem sufficient to us. The Ombudsman de Montréal, therefore, ordered and paid with her own operating budget, an automated door opening system.

Protection of patrimony and safety – Municipal pool (2008)

A citizen was complaining that the installations of an indoor municipal pool were not adequate for elderly people. This pool is located in a patrimonial building built in the ‘30s.

This pool is not equipped with conventional ladders with handles to enter and exit the water, but rather with steps built in the pool’s ceramic walls, on the side of which poles with handles are anchored to the top side of the pool. A special lift is also available at this pool which the employees can use, when needed, to enter or exit people in/out of the pool.

Our investigation showed that the building where the pool is located had recently undergone major renovations during which Arrondissement Le Plateau-Mont-Royal had taken particular care to protect its patrimonial characteristics.

After serious analysis, the Ombudsman de Montréal concluded that the current installations offer adequate access to swimmers, including elderly people or those with reduced mobility, all the while protecting the patrimonial aspect of the building and that the borough had not acted in an arbitrary, unreasonable or discriminatory manner by refusing to install a more traditional ladder, in this pool. It should be noted, moreover, that the narrowness of the basin would have posed serious obstacles to the installation of such a ladder.

Opening of a register – Access for handicapped persons (2007)

Citizens complained that the premises chosen by Arrondissement de Rivière-des-Prairies – Pointe-aux-Trembles for the opening of a register on a project requiring zoning change, was not accessible to people in wheelchairs and, as a result, that these citizens could not exercise their right to sign the said register if they wished to do so.

We contacted the borough director who immediately accepted our suggestion to set up a special area, on the first floor of the building, where people with reduced mobility could sign the register. This was certainly not an ideal set-up but, nevertheless, it allowed the concerned citizens to exercise their democratic right.

In 2008, our office identified new accessibility problems with regard to this place and, therefore, we submitted further requests to the borough.

The elevator in this building was now functional and accessible for wheelchairs but only through an entrance located at the back of the building: there was no indication at the main entrance of the building, however, to inform people in wheelchairs that such access was available and how to get there. Following our intervention, two signs were installed, one on the main entrance door and another, on the side of the building.

During a winter visit, we also noted that the path leading to the back of the building was not adequately cleared from the snow. At our request, the borough intervened with the owners of the building and required that more specific attention be paid to snow removal, on this path.

Although this borough office is a temporary one, it will be used until the end of 2009. It was, therefore, important for us that, as long as the borough office is located there, these premises be adequatly accessible to all, including people with reduced mobility.