Montreal Man Hits Brick Wall in Fight for Accessibility

By Phil Carpenter , Global News
Posted July 15, 2021

A Montreal man living with multiple sclerosis has been denied a permit to build a wheelchair lift in front of his apartment.

Claude Varin can’t leave his second floor apartment as often as he’d like. There are 18 steps to get to his front door from the street. He’s in a wheelchair, so back in 2012 he asked his borough of Rosemontla Petite-Patrie for a permit to install a -mechanical lift at the front of his building, to easily access the sidewalk and street for transportation.

“With my lift here,” Varin said, pointing to his front balcony, “life would be a lot easier.”

His request was denied.

According to him, the borough claimed installing a lift wouldn’t be in keeping with the heritage architecture of the street. He said they suggested that he have one built in the rear of the building.

“I said I won’t put that. I’d have the same problem,” he pointed out.

The problem is getting to his adapted transport, which won’t go to the back of the building which faces an alley.

Because he doesn’t have a lift, Varin explained that when he leaves his home, he has to descend the 23 steps of the stairs in the back of the apartment to get to the mechanical wheelchair he has stored in a shed underneath the outdoor staircase. He then has to use that wheelchair to ride a block through the alley to get back to the street to catch the bus.

“So that means I have to go half an hour before [to catch the bus]” he pointed out.

Varin took the matter to the Human Rights Tribunal. which ruled July 5th that the city violated his rights but dismissed the case, saying Varin missed the six-month window he had to sue the city.

He and his partner Manon Verhelst are trying to figure out what to do next.

According to Verhelst, it’d be difficult to replicate their quality of life somewhere else.

We’ve been here for 20 years,” she told Global News. We know the neighbourhood and he can easily get to his treatments.”

Moving into adapted living might solve the lift problem but the couple loves their current home.

“We have everything here,” Verhelst insisted, pointing to the series of support bars and adapted furniture set up inside the apartment.

“Why go somewhere else when he’s autonomous here?”

Varin is stuck and goes out just once a week. Still, he refuses to leave.

“So I have to find a way to go down,” he mused.

The borough refused to comment on the tribunal’s decision.

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