Disabled apartment dweller Joyce Stewart has won her two-year battle for her dignity and her ramp.

Joyce gets her ramp

Senior also awarded $15,000 by human rights tribunal

A Campbell River apartment owner and her building manager have been ordered to build a ramp for their disabled tenant and to pay her $15,000 for “injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect.”

In a hearing before a B.C. Human Rights tribunal Patricia Vermette, the owner of the Cedar Place apartments, and manager Alan Oakley have been ordered to build a ramp for 68-year-old Joyce Stewart who suffers from severe osteoporosis and a club foot.

Vermette and Oakley were also ordered to pay Stewart another $500 because they did not provide complete documentation as ordered by tribunal member Marlene Tyshynski.

Stewart is proudly independent and has lived at the Cedar Place apartments since 1999. In 2010 she required a walker for mobility and was having significant difficulty going up and down stairs. That’s when she asked for a ramp and was told she should move someplace else.

“I’m so happy,” Stewart told the Mirror last week. “I’ve been fighting for this for more than two years.” She says she’s going to take some time before deciding what to do with her $15,000 “windfall.”

Stewart said Oakley won’t talk to her about the decision. “When he found out about it he stormed out of here burning rubber. He was angry.” Oakley did not return Mirror calls.

In her “reasons for decision” Tyshynski stated that Vermette and Oakley believed there was “no legal requirement for them to provide a ramp to the apartment building as they are not a seniors’ facility or a facility for the disabled. The decision about whether to build a ramp was a business decision.”

Tyshynski reported: “I have found that the entrance steps to the apartment building are very difficult for Ms. Stewart to manage. She fears falling down the steps and has hurt herself when she has tripped in the past. She can only traverse the steps by grabbing onto the railing and dragging herself up or down while trying to lug along her walker.

“Due to the steps, Ms. Stewart suffers anxiety about her ability to negotiate them and she restricts her outings. It is clear that the adverse impact is related to Ms. Stewart’s physical disability. Mr. Oakley linked Ms. Stewart’s disability to her age when he expressed his view that seniors and/or persons with mobility problems belonged in special facilities, not a regular apartment.”

The Human Rights tribunal member ordered Vermette and Oakley to build Stewart’s ramp by March 21.

Stewart’s lawyer David Mossop, of the Community Legal Assistance Society, warns that Cedar Place is not unlike many older apartment complexes in the city that have nothing but stairs and that’s becoming a concern with an aging population. “Because of this ruling others may have to build ramps as well,” he says.