Automatic door openers, curb cuts and hope: What’s changed since CBC’s Access Denied series | CBC News

Ashley Martin-Hanlon couldn’t hide her enthusiasm as she approached the coffee shop. 

Last time she went there, she had to ask someone to open the door for her. 

Now there’s an automatic door opener. 

“Ooh, button. This is new,” said Martin-Hanlon, before powering on through. 

It’s one of several improvements that accessibility advocates reported to CBC in the months following our Access Denied series. The stories highlighted how people with disabilities are sometimes excluded from day-to-day activities.

Automatic door openers can give independence to people with mobility disabilities, so that they don’t have to ask others to open the door for them. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC )


The owners of the Jumping Bean franchise on Elizabeth Avenue were under no obligation to install the new door openers. 

Co-owner Karl Reid said they also plan to renovate the restrooms within the next couple of months to make them work for all customers.

What an awesome response. It’s nice when you’re able to show someone something and instead of getting defensive, they jump to immediately put it right.– Ashley Martin-Hanlon

At the moment, there’s not enough room in the accessible stall for someone using a power chair to turn around and close the door. That’s even though the business had complied with the accessibility regulations in effect at the time.

The owners’ new franchise on Kelsey Drive in St. John’s is fully accessible, including a large washroom that Martin-Hanlon could navigate with ease. 

The recently-opened Jumping Bean coffee shop on Kelsey Drive in St. John’s has a washroom large enough for anyone using a motorized wheelchair. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC )

“What an awesome response,” said Martin-Hanlon. “It’s nice when you’re able to show someone something and instead of getting defensive, they jump to immediately put it right.”

Numerous new regulations under the Buildings Accessibility Act in Newfoundland and Labrador should also make a difference.

The regulations came into effect in April, and include requirements for newly-constructed buildings to be equipped with automated door openers and more accessible public washrooms.

Gary Hall demonstrating the new curb cut outside his apartment building in St. John’s. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC )

New curb cut makes big difference for wheelchair user

Gary Hall of St. John’s is celebrating an improvement that has a direct impact on his life.

A contractor has installed a new curb cut outside the entrance to his apartment building in the Pleasantville neighbourhood of St. John’s. 

Hall uses a manual wheelchair. The building has an elevator and his apartment is accessible. 

But when he’d call accessible taxis, the drivers would have to haul his chair to get it up over or down from the curb. 

Now there’s a slope the wheelchair can navigate, instead of a sharp drop. No more lifting is required. 

“The curb cut makes a huge difference,” said Hall. “If I’m in an accessible cab, they don’t have to tip me back and put me over the curb.” 

That’s important for a man who loves socializing and taking part in community events, whether it’s the St. John’s Pride Parade, Shave for the Brave or playing basketball. 

Gary Hall celebrating Pride Week in St. John’s in 2017. (Submitted by Alex Tsui)

Contractor consults on accessible housing 

Hall is lucky enough to have an accessible apartment.

Suitable housing remains a pressing issue for many other people living with disabilities

Kim White of St. John’s wrote about that in a commentary for CBC.

After it ran, a contractor who does home renovations geared toward people who want to stay in their own homes as they age requested a meeting with White, who alternates between using crutches and a wheelchair to get around. 

Kim White washes dishes in her St. John’s apartment. (Sherry Vivian/CBC )

White said she was happy to offer tips and insights that could help the contractor in his work.

White said another couple also got in touch with her, seeking advice on how to make the condominium they rent out more accessible. 

“It really sends a message that people are starting to understand that there are things that they can do,” said White, who has been advocating for years for more inclusion for people with disabilities

Making spaces and events more ‘autism-friendly’ 

The Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador is also reporting progress.

Communications manager Tess Hemeon said the group is seeing an increased number of calls from people looking to make their events or spaces more ‘autism-friendly’.

Empower, a resource centre for people with disabilities, reports a 100 per cent increase in demand for its services between 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.  Those services include helping people who are trying to find jobs. 

Executive director Kimberly Yetman Dawson said the InclusionNL program is at maximum capacity. It provides supports for employers who are looking to hire people with disabilities

Tess Hemeon is the Advocacy Manager for the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC News)

Community group installs automatic door openers

There’s more: The St. John’s Retired Citizens Association contacted to report that its building on Bennett Avenue now has an automatic door opener.

Club president Cyril Hayden told CBC there used to be a post between the two front doors.

The post is now gone, and a larger, single door is now in place, complete with an automatic door opener that a person using a wheelchair can reach.

Hayden said the total bill was just under $15,700. The provincial government covered $10,000 of the cost through a grant, while the City of St. John’s offered a grant to cover the remaining costs.

The club offers music, exercises and games for more than 200 members. 

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 

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