Meow Cat Café Dispute Highlights

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Meow Cat Café Dispute Highlights Canada’s Accessibility Problem, Paralympian
Jeff Adams Says

The owners of the business argued that wheelchairs pose a danger to their
cats. By Emma Paling

The Huffington Post, Aug. 14, 2018

Paralympian and law student Jeff Adams spent an uncomfortable few hours at
Meow Cat Café in
Toronto after hearing the business turned away a 16-year-old because he uses
a wheelchair.

The issue of accessibility in Canada is larger than one cat café in Toronto,
paralympian Jeff Adams says.

Meow Cat Café was in the news all weekend when Global News reported that a
16-year-old wasn’t
allowed inside for a birthday outing because he uses a wheelchair.

Adams went to the café Friday after seeing the report. He hoped there was
more to the story, Adams
told HuffPost Canada in an interview, but quickly realized there was not.

“As soon as we went through the door, she was yelling ‘No wheelchairs, no
wheelchairs,’” he said. “It
seemed incredible, in the true sense of the word.”

The owners told him he could only come in if he left his wheelchair outside,
and then said he could
come inside if he didn’t move. Even when he was stationary, the owners took
the cats away from him
when he tried to pet them.

Adams and his partner captured their time inside on video and posted it
online.

“This is a place where the cat’s safety is priority,” the owner can be heard
saying. “You keep moving,
why? You are blocking the customers.”

The interaction was “awkward times a thousand,” Adams said. The owners
eventually called the police
after Adams insisted that he should be allowed inside and served. Police
never showed up.

The café appears to have closed its doors. Adams saw a sign on its window
Saturday announcing that
the cats were “in a state of too much stress and anxiety” after being around
people with wheelchairs
and walkers.

Erica Yun, the café’s co-owner, declined to do an interview with Global News
on multiple occasions. She
did not respond to HuffPost Canada’s request for comment.

The sign on the café’s door also accuses Global News reporter Matthew
Bingley of lying and disregarding
the owners’ point of view because they are “weak women and Asians who don’t
speak English well.”

Adams pointed out that the discussion online did become racist.

“It was never the intention to make that the issue,” he said.

He just wanted to spark a discussion about accessibility. Once or twice a
year, he’s asked to leave
restaurants and businesses because of his wheelchair. These experiences even
inspired him to study law
at Osgoode Hall, York University’s law school.

“People have these deeply-rooted and heartfelt beliefs that people with
disabilities should not be
allowed, not even welcome but not even allowed, into their place of
business,” he said. “It’s really
difficult to undo all of the negative messages that have been drilled into
people.”

Liberals’ accessibility bill could bring change

Adams said he’s optimistic about a law the federal government tabled in
June. If passed, it will create an
accessibility commissioner and regulations for sectors that fall under
federal jurisdiction, which includes
banking, transportation and telecommunications. Businesses that don’t comply
could face fines up to
$250,000.

“Honestly, it’s really the only way to make accessibility happen,” Adams
said. “You can’t sue people into
liking you. You can’t bring a lawsuit to make someone accept you.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/08/14/meow-cat-cafe-dispute-highlights-canada-s-accessibility-
problem-paralympian-jeff-adams-says_a_23502240/

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