An 85-year-old woman's frustration over a new life-lease suite she moved into in January 2011 could have been avoided if the condo developers had been more forthcoming with information about the suite, an inquiry heard Wednesday.
Dianne Brockmeyer, the complainant in a Manitoba Human Rights Commission board of inquiry, testified Wednesday in the hearing she and her mother, Dorothy Englot, would not have signed a lease with Cornerstone Housing Corp. had they known the developer would not be able to install a number of devices and aids Englot, who is disabled, requires to function independently.
The hearing in front of independently appointed adjudicator Peter Sim, a Winnipeg lawyer, is to determine if Cornerstone discriminated against Englot by failing to reasonably accommodate her specific needs based on her disability.
Englot's right leg is without a kneecap and she has a 27-inch-long, half-inch-thick titanium rod that keeps her leg together. She is unable to bend that leg and requires scooters and special walkers to get around and a specific toilet attachment along with grab bars to be able to use the toilet and bathtub as well as other alterations to her living space.
Brockmeyer and her husband, Al Brockmeyer, testified before the lease on the suite was signed, they made it clear they would need the grab bars and toilet attachment mechanism.
As it turned out, the steel-stud construction of the 53-unit Cornerstone Life Lease prevented the installation of the grab bars. As well, the Brockmeyers say, the bathtub was smaller than the standard size, meaning Englot could not have a bath lift installed.
"If there's no grab bars, there would have been no lease and we'll be on our way," Dianne Brockmeyer said.
She said the initial indication from the leasing agent was that it would probably not be a problem and it would be taken up with the board.
But the challenge of getting the work done proved almost nightmarish. Englot was not able to use the toilet or bath in her ensuite bathroom for almost a year and endured many other challenges, including awkward electrical outlets for her chairlift as well as a dispute about a handicap parking space.
Brockmeyer and Englot have spent about $13,000 making alterations to the suite and more work is pending.
The life-lease development was finished in late 2010. A second 50-unit phase II is now under construction. Units are sold for $134,000 (which is refundable when the resident ends the lease or dies) and there is a monthly fee of between $1,290 and $1,600.
Cornerstone is a non-profit corporation owned by a group called the Association of Reformed Christians in Action. Its board members are volunteers.
Retired judge Charles Huband, representing Cornerstone, made it clear expenses for the alterations were the tenants' responsibility.
He also suggested Brockmeyer's contention the steel studs prevented grab bars from being installed might not be correct. He also disputed Brockmeyer's claim the bathtub was smaller than the standard size.
At issue is to what extent Cornerstone disregarded the stated needs of a disabled tenant. Huband is arguing Cornerstone has been compliant.
The hearing continues.