WATCH ABOVE: Paul Bronfman says the purpose of the Air Canada Centre’s accessible seating sections are defeated when people in front of them stand up, blocking the view of those in wheelchairs. Mark Carcasole reports.
TORONTO — A prominent Toronto film industry executive says he’s fed up with the lack of action from the Air Canada Centre on developing a better viewing experience for people with disabilities.
Paul Bronfman, Chairman and CEO of the Comweb Group, William F. White International Inc. and Chairman of Pinewood Toronto Studios, says he has had many bad experiences with trying to view events at the ACC.
“The issue is real simple, the sight lines at the Air Canada Centre for people in wheelchairs are non existent,” he said.
“I’ve been to a lot of buildings in North America and the Air Canada Centre is by far is the worst building, and what really gets my goat is that they know about it and they haven’t done a bloody thing about it for 16 years. So I’ve decided to go public.”
Bronfman says that the issue hit a boiling point for him last week at a U2 concert in Toronto, where he says fans stood up in front of the accessible seating section and blocked his view.
“Not a bloody thing has been done, all they’ve given me is lip service and I am out of patience and that last U2 concert Tuesday night was the nail in the coffin for me,” he said.
“I didn’t see a thing … it’s the same nonsense every time — people sitting in wheelchairs, people stand up in front — it’s not a proper wheelchair section.”
Bronfman says he missed the majority of the show and that the issue is “fixable” but Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment refuses to upgrade the seating despite numerous complaints in the past.
“This is a fan experience issue that we take very seriously,” said Wayne Zronik, vice president, facilities and live entertainment.
“We continue to explore a number of potential solutions that addresses the issue in a way that enhances the experience for those affected, including Mr. Bronfman. His feedback has proven to be extremely valuable to date, and we look forward to having him actively involved as we explore any potential solutions.”
Bronfman says he’s not satisfied with the response and believes the company is in violation of both the Ontario Human Rights Commision and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which he says states that people with disabilities are entitled to enjoy the same experience.
David Lepofsky, Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says that because the province has fallen behind on accessibility goals.
“People like Mr. Bronfman are left having to fight these battles individually and that’s not fair,” said Lepofsky.
“This should have been fixed long ago and it’s important when people with disabilities go to a sports stadium or one of these events that they have ample accessibility seating options,” he said.
“Seating is designed to be versatile enough that it can be altered to be accessible if needed and where people with disabilities can enjoy the same part of the program that everybody else does.”
Lepofsky says that more than 1.8 million Ontarians have a disability, a number that is only going to increase as the province’s population ages.
“Ultimately everybody either has a disability, or has someone near and dear to them who has a disability, or will get a disability if they live long enough,” he said.
“So the barriers that hurt individuals with disabilities who come forward to fight these battles now are really the barriers that hurt everybody and fixing those barriers helps everybody.”
Bronfman says that the ACC would have to raise the platforms for the accessible seating or take out seats that are in front of the section that are blocking views.
“I’m going to see if they’re actually going to do something now, because I’m like a dog with a bone and I love my rock and roll shows,” he said.
“I’m basically out here to ruffle some feathers and get these people to do the right thing. It’s not about the law, it’s about doing the right thing and showing a little compassion and empathy and good corporate citizenship.”
*With files from Mark Carcasole