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Community Legal Assistance Society

BC Human Rights Tribunal rules that failing to accommodate blind runner amounts to discrimination

Feb 21, 2013

The BC Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that the Victoria Times Colonist 10k (“TC10K”) race organizer’s failure to accommodate a blind runner amounts to discrimination.

Graeme McCreath, a committed athlete, runs with a guide. He wanted to take part in the 10km fun run, but TC10K race policies prevented him from doing so safely. The race organizers adopted a rule that required all runners to start in staggered groups based on their estimated finish time. This mass start rule put Mr. McCreath and his guide smack in the middle of 15,000 people, making it impossible for them to participate in the race in a safe and dignified manner. Mr. McCreath had run the race a few times following the rule. On these occasions, both he and his guide had experienced distress, and fallen over people ahead of them.  It got to the point that neither Mr. McCreath nor his guide felt safe starting the race in these conditions.

Mr. McCreath asked the TC10K for a reasonable accommodation, to start five minutes early up front with the wheelchair racers. This way he could avoid the congestion. Another race in Victoria offered this accommodation, allowing Mr. McCreath to run that race with an accommodation that work very well for him. Mr. McCreath was astonished when the TC10K organizers refused his request. He filed a human rights complaint alleging that the TC10K discriminated against him on the basis of his disability.

After a four day hearing in Victoria, the BC Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that the race organizer’s failure to accommodate Mr. McCreath was discriminatory.  The tribunal has ordered the TC10k race organizers to stop the discrimination, and to change their accommodation practice for blind runners in consultation with Mr. McCreath. The Tribunal has also ordered the race organizers to pay Mr. McCreath $3,090.76 in compensation.

Mr. McCreath was represented by CLAS lawyer Frances Kelly.

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