The main issue in this case is how a service provider should meet its human rights obligations and be able to balance the rights of disabled customers with those of disabled employees. iStock.
Human rights law in Canada is quite firm on providing accommodation to those with disabilities.
What happens in cases where both a customer and a service provider have disabilities and the service provider is unable to accommodate the client due to his or her own disability?
This question was asked in the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal case McCreath. v. Victoria Taxi.
Graeme McCreath is legally blind and has to be accompanied by a guide dog or at the very least have a cane with him. On the evening of July 15, 2014, McCreath was out with friends and was accompanied by his guide dog. Friends called a cab, but didn’t advise that McCreath had a guide dog with him. When the cab driver arrived, he refused to accommodate them due to a dog allergy.
The driver arranged for another taxi for McCreath and his friends, with the new taxi arriving within a minute or two of being called, and the new taxi took McCreath, his service dog and his friend’s home.
McCreath took his case in front of the B.C. Human Right Tribunal, because he claimed that though he has been refused service in the past, because of his dog, this incident left him especially humiliated, because the venue was very public.
The main issue in this case is how a service provider should meet its human rights obligations under the Human Rights Code of British Columbia and be able to balance the rights of disabled customers with those of disabled employees.
It is clear McCreath has a physical disability, and therefore is entitled to accommodation under section 8 of the code.
However, isn’t the cab driver also entitled to accommodation due to his allergy to dogs? That raises the question of whether an allergy is even classified as a physical disability.
The tribunal concluded that an allergic reaction to an animal could constitute a physical disability. Furthermore, Sean Convoy, the manager of Victoria Taxi testified that his company has an “exception” policy. This policy states that if the driver provides medical evidence that shows he or she has a condition that involves an animal, that driver is exempt from taking fares that involve animals.
McCreath claimed that regardless of medical condition or other justification, he had to be accommodated by the cab driver.
The tribunal found that McCreath established a case of discrimination. The question left was whether Victoria Taxi accommodated McCreath and others negatively affected by the company’s policy, to the point of undue hardship.
In the end the tribunal found that McCreath was accommodated almost immediately. He also found that the exception policy strikes a reasonable balance between the rights of physically disabled people to have access to services and the rights of the physically disabled employees to a safe and healthy work environment.