A blind runner has filed a human rights complaint against the Victoria International Running Society and the race director of the Times Colonist 10K, after having his request denied to start the run early to avoid race congestion.
Graeme McCreath, a 65-year-old Saanich physiotherapist, filed the complaint against the VIRS and race director Jacqui Sanderson, under Section 8 of the Human Rights Code: Discrimination in accommodation, service and facility for the society’s alleged refusal to accommodate his disability by granting him an early race start time.
A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal judge is hearing McCreath’s case this week in public hearing in Victoria, which started Monday and is scheduled to last up to four days.
McCreath, who has a prosthetic left eye and only light perception in the other, has, with the assistance of a guide, run six of the TC10K events, including from 2006 until 2010.
McCreath argued that in 2011 he asked to start five minutes ahead of the gun with the wheelchair runners due to the crush of runners in his pace group, the congestion during the first two kilometres of the race and the safety hazards caused by those slowing or stopping in front of him.
“My own agility has kept me from injury and I’ve tested it too many times,” said McCreath, who noted that one of his guides once tripped over a runner stopped to tie their shoes. “It’s become a real risk.”
McCreath ran the eight-kilometre road race at the GoodLife Victoria Marathon, a much smaller event compared to the TC10K by several thousand participants, without issue after starting five minutes early with wheelchair racers.
Speaking on behalf of the Victoria International Running Society, lawyer David Mulroney said McCreath’s challenges around running amid the congestion of the first leg of the race should have been addressed by the route change made to the 2011 course, which McCreath did not participate in.
“He didn’t get what he was asking for and I understand why Mr. McCreath would be advancing a claim,” Mulroney said.
“The VIRS would be happy to work out an accommodation with Mr. McCreath that would meet the safety needs of Mr. McCreath and other visually impaired runners, however the VIRS believes the safest place for Mr. McCreath is running with a guide in his pace group.”
McCreath says he’s shocked by the society’s failure to honour his “minimal accommodation.”
“I’ve been disrespected in so many ways,” McCreath said. “I feel like a pariah. Nobody seems to care.”