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How is Our Campaign for a Fully Accessible Ontario Going?

SAMPLING FROM MEDIA AROUND ONTARIO ON IMPLEMENTATION OF THE AODA

April 5, 2012

SUMMARY

One way to monitor progress in our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario is to see what the media around Ontario is reporting on this topic. It is not scientific, but it certainly can be interesting.

Here is a sample. We don’t claim it is representative. It is just a bit of a snapshot. If you follow the AODA Alliance on Twitter @aodaalliance, you will get tweets on these stories and many more that we cannot jam into our AODA Updates.

Below we set out:

* A report on London Transit rolling out a program for priority seating on public transit buses, reported to be behind the AODA’s schedule. There is no reason this simple accommodation couldn’t be made available sooner.

* A report on a barrier facing a Whitby resident concerning the need for fully accessible housing.

* A report on efforts in Waterloo to train local businesses on customer service accessibility.

* A report on efforts in Hamilton on achieving accessible customer service.

* A report on barriers facing shoppers with disabilities in Hamilton.

* A report on mandatory accessibility training for graduate students at Queens University in Kingston. All colleges and universities should consider doing the same.

* A report on problems that face property-hunters with disabilities.

If you see coverage on this topic, feel free to email it to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com Also, we encourage you to urge your local media to cover stories like these. Whether it is good news about a barrier being removed or prevented, or unfortunate news about progress taking too long, it helps our non-partisan campaign to focus the public’s attention on this issue as much as we can.

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March 2012 from website londoncommunitynews.com.doc
URL:
http://www.londoncommunitynews.com/2012/03/ltc-priority-seating-campaign-to-roll-out-this-spring/

LTC priority seating campaign to roll out this spring
By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News

London transit users will notice a new program rolled out this spring that will see priority and courtesy seating assigned in buses. In a London Transit Commission (LTC) board meeting Wednesday evening (March 28), members discussed the strategy and offered insight on the program.

Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), public transit providers in the province were required to develop a priority seating plan by Jan. 1 this year.

While it won’t be implemented until May, LTC board members have been working with representatives from Barrie, Brampton, Toronto, Windsor and York Region since the fall of 2011 to discuss a co-ordinated effort toward compliance. The rationale of this working group was to offer a consistent approach to lessen customer confusion, as many people transfer between the systems daily.

LTC board members said the program was delayed to ensure it will be completed properly.

Priority seating is for passengers with a disability, whereas courtesy seating is for groups like seniors, expectant mothers and adults traveling with infants or small children. The priority seating will be collapsible and located at the front of buses, whereas the courtesy will be nearest to the front, past the priority seating.

The LTC board created a comprehensive communication package that will include on-board advertising, shelter posters, customer and employee brochures and website content, which will be rolled out in early May.

The LTC will have more to report on this program later this month.

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August 2 2011 website durhamregion.com
URL: http://www.newsdurhamregion.com/news/article/182525
Accessibility barrier at Whitby building traps disabled man
Parvaneh Pessian
Photo: Helene and Peter Fee have an issue with the limited accessibility at their apartment building in Whitby July 25, 2011 Photo: Jason Liebregts / Metroland

WHITBY — High above his condo on the rooftop of a building overlooking the waterfront is where Peter Fee finds his “little piece of heaven.”

As residents of The Rowe, located at the corner of Charles and Victoria streets in Whitby, he and his wife, Helene, are constantly up there to enjoy the stunning view from their private rooftop terrace.

“It’s one of the main reasons we moved in two years ago. As long as it’s not raining, we’re up here every day.”

But last month, Mr. Fee — who gets around in a motorized scooter due to paralysis on his left side from a stroke he suffered eight years ago — found himself helpless due to what he describes as the building’s “short-sighted” system of accessibility.

A small vestibule, leading visitors to the rooftop area, has two doors to pass through, but is only equipped with one automatic door opener. This renders the access virtually useless for disabled individuals, and recently left Mr. Fee trapped.

“Helene had gone out on an errand and it was a beautiful day so I went up there on my own and pushed the button to go in the first door but it closed behind me inside the little room and I can’t open the second door because it’s not connected to a push button door mechanism,” says Mr. Fee.

Determined to maintain his independence despite physical limitations, Mr. Fee arose from his scooter and attempted to manually push the door open.

He didn’t get very far, losing his balance and tumbling to the ground.

“I was out of breath, my heart was pounding and I’m a pretty resilient guy but I was stuck,” he says, his voice trembling.

To add insult to injury, the couple say they had informed the building’s property manager and board of directors of the accessibility barrier on the rooftop months earlier.

“They realize it’s a problem but it’s not a priority for them,” says Mrs. Fee, adding that she and her husband retrieved a quote for the work back in November (about $1,600) and even offered to cover the expenses — but the board refused.

“They won’t let us because they say you shouldn’t have to do that, but they won’t do it themselves so we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

John Allan, president of the board of directors for The Rowe Condominiums, says members have been aware of the accessibility issue for some time but are in the midst of addressing it.

“We are responding to the residents’ needs and we’re in the process of obtaining quotes to enhance the access to the roof,” he says.

The estimated cost of the enhancements indicated by companies the board has consulted far exceeds the suggested $1,600, he adds.

“It’s going to take time because we have to rely on other people to tell us the logistics and the technical side of it and then we’re going to make a good business decision … we have a budget and you have to look in your budget to see where the money is.”

According to Whitby’s manager of building and bylaw services, Brent Rice, The Rowe currently meets all minimum building code requirements.

“The building code requires that there be an accessible entrance (at grade level) and it may require more than one depending on how many entrances you have to the building, but those are the only entrances that are required by the Ontario Building Code to have automatic door operators,” he says.

“The building code doesn’t require or doesn’t regulate the doors leading to a roof access or any other public space within the building.”

The Province has conducted a review of the proposed Built Environment Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, and an updated set of requirements will be established in the near future.

“I expect that the new building code will have a much higher level of accessibility required but based on the current building code, the Rowe Condominium does meet code and if the owner or the board wants to go above and beyond that minimum level, that’s at their discretion,” says Mr. Rice.

While unsure of a definite time line for the project, Mr. Allan says the board wants to ensure the work is done properly to avoid running into problems again.

“All I’m going to say is we’re doing it as fast as we can, being mindful of the economics of the building and everyone’s needs.”

But Mr. Fee says the heart of the issue lies in taking action now, acknowledging the concerns of residents and doing the right thing without delay.

“What else has to happen? I’ve already fallen,” he says. “It’s my dignity. It’s my right to be able to access our world here.”

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September 30 2011 from website therecord.com.doc
URL: http://www.therecord.com/news/local/article/602252–law-will-make-disabilities-training-mandatory

Law will make disabilities training mandatory
By Greg Mercer, Record staff

WATERLOO REGION — In barely three months, every person who works at a business in Ontario will need to be trained in how to provide customer service to people with disabilities. It’s the law.

But if you run or work for most small companies in Waterloo Region, that’s probably news to you.

The latest regulation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, a six-year-old piece of legislation that aims to make life easier for people with disabilities, comes into effect. Jan. 1.

It will require employers to train staff on what to do if a customer who, say, is blind, uses a wheelchair, or relies on a service dog, comes in the door. The legislation also applies to public-sector institutions and non-profit groups.

But plenty of companies don’t seem aware of the law, which is the latest step in an eventual plan to require all new businesses to be physically accessible to anyone with disabilities — a final regulation still years away.

“There’s still a lot of businesses that have some last-minute training to do,” said Bil Smith, executive director of the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region.

Refusing to comply could result in fines from $200 to $15,000. But the government ministry behind the legislation says it’s not planning to take a heavy-handed approach to enforcement.

“We’re not looking to penalize companies if they don’t comply. That’s not the point of this legislation. We want to work with them,” said Sandy Mangat, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

The training doesn’t have to be particularly complicated or costly, and can mean passing out literature and talking to employees, she said. Only companies with over 20 employees will have to file an electronic report to the government declaring they’re in compliance with the law.

Self-employed, one-person businesses, however, are exempt. Public sector institutions already had to get on board this past January.

Smith’s agency, meanwhile, is offering a program that can train local businesses on how to get in compliance with the act. It’s designed to teach employees how to better serve people with disabilities, and to better understand their rights, he said.

“What would be a horrible situation would be if a person arrived at a business with a service dog, and the person in that business kicked them out and said ‘there’s no animals allowed in here.’ The training is to address those kind of issues,” Smith said.

The Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, through its partner the Making Cents of Abilities Coalition, is also offering a seminar Oct. 20 to help small businesses understand what they need to do meet the incoming regulations. The seminar runs from 8:45 a.m. to noon at the Waterloo Recreation Centre, with pre-registration required.

The seminar was needed because many companies don’t know how the law will affect them, said Art Sinclair, the chamber’s vice president of public policy and advocacy.

“Not a lot of them do, particularly with smaller businesses,” he said.

They should, Mangat said. With about one in seven Ontarians living with some kind of disability, it just makes good business sense to be accessible, she said.

“It’s in everyone’s best interest to be compliant,” Mangat said. “It’s very, very easy. It can be something as simple as asking someone ‘how can I help?’ It doesn’t mean changing your physical location or putting in ramps.”

For more information on the law, visit www.mcss.gov.on.ca.

gmercer@therecord.com

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December 8 2011 from website hamiltonnews.com.doc
URL: http://www.hamiltonnews.com/community/stoney-creek/businesses-prepare-for-accessibility-deadline/

Businesses prepare for accessibility deadline
Jane Lee, director of the City of Hamilton’s customer service, access and equity department, says about 20 per cent of people in Hamilton are living with a disability, higher than the 17.6 per cent across the country.

So what are local businesses and the city doing to accommodate and attract people with disabilities?

“We recently introduced (the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) at a franchisee meeting and explained in detail the implications this would have at a retail level,” said Anita Ionni, director, training and development, Fortino’s.

Stores are using Loblaw’s national policy, Customer Service Accessibility designed to provide guidance on service standards for customers with disabilities. Supporting materials to help educate employees with the policy were distributed last month to Fortino’s locations.

These include posters to be hung in lunchroom and punch clock areas. In addition, each employee will receive a brochure and be required to sign that they have read and understood the requirements. Ionni said Fortino’s already has several measures in place.

“It is our goal to educate our customers with various communications tools. We will affix posters in the customer service areas of our stores and entrances – so that customers with disabilities know they are in good hands and will be treated with respect in our stores and also help encourage non-disabled customers to exercise tolerance and understanding for those with special needs,” she said.

“Training literature will be included in our new hire orientation training program starting January 2012, to ensure all new hires in our business are made aware of this policy going forward.”

The City of Hamilton, as part of the public sector, had to have the customer service standards in place in 2010. An advisory committee and focus groups helped educate them on what was needed.

The city has FM systems at the front counters of city-run services and at public meetings, as well as magnification devices and portable microphones. There are also signs letting people know these services are available. The city is currently looking at how to make recreation more accessible through program changes, special programs and assistive devices.

“We are always going to be learning. There are always going to be barriers identified and there will always be new solutions. “We want to make sure everything is available in an accessible format somewhere in the city,” Lee said. “We are not going to get there overnight, but there should be one location or an alternative, like offering a service by phone.”

Paula Kilburn, who is blind and sits on the city’s advisory committee for persons with disabilities, says the city is doing admirably. She notes the addition of HSR bus drivers announcing stops has helped a lot. One complaint is the city’s Web site, which she calls “atrocious” for accessibility.

Lee says the city is working on that now as part of the Information and Communication Standard, which will become a requirement for the public sector by 2015.

“We want to make sure people with a disability can fully participate in the life of the community,” Lee said. “We have come a long way, but there is still a lot to do.”

Pat Marshall of Cineplex Entertainment says the company has been involved in improving accessibility for many years. Because they have many measures in place already, to prepare for the Jan. 1 deadline, the company has enhanced what existed and added online training for its staff.

Cineplex is a founding member of Access to Entertainment, where admission is free for a support person accompanying someone with a disability. Newer theatres also provide a family washroom, which is more spacious, and companion seating, which is reserved for those seeing a movie with a person in a wheelchair space.

Cineplex offers rear-window captioning, descriptive video service and assisted listening at its theatres. Until now, only certain auditoriums had the capability for captioning and descriptive video. But along with the conversion to digital projection, the company is adding a new program that will mean these services will be available in all auditoriums at all theatres. The technology is being tested in the next few months. Marshall says though that it is still up to the distributors whether they include this capability in their films.

At Barangas on the Beach in Hamilton, co-owner Margarita Tsarakis says the restaurant has always strived to meet the needs of people with disabilities. She says staff is always available to help someone, whether it’s to read a menu or with a mobility issue.

I don’t see why the government has to tell us to be human; to me that is common sense,” she said. “Our servers are very sensitive to the needs of people with disabilities. Helping someone with a disability is something that one should not have to be told to do.”

What accessible customer service means

Starting Jan. 1, the Accessibility Standard for Customer Service will come into effect for all businesses and organizations in Ontario.

This is part of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which aims to make businesses and organizations fully accessible by 2025. Different parts of the legislation are being incrementally introduced, including facilities, employment, transportation and communications.

Accessible customer service means making changes and training staff to serve all customers.

Steps include accommodating a customer’s service dog, writing down the answer to a question for someone who is deaf or using plain language and speaking in short sentences when helping someone with a developmental disability.

More than 1.85 million Ontarians have a disability and this number is rising as the population ages.

Sandy Mangat, spokesperson for the Ministry of Community and Social Services, points out accessibility is more than physical changes to the structure of a building, but includes using a ground floor office to hold a meeting or even posting a sign if an accessible fitting room is not available.

“Accessibility makes good business sense too,” Mangat said. “People with disabilities have $25 billion in spending power. That’s a number most businesses can’t afford to ignore.”
Mangat says businesses may be subject to a $200 to $15,000 fine if they don’t comply to the AODA.

Businesses can visit mcss.gov.on.ca to find information on the AODA and the Customer Service standard.

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December 9 2011 from website thespec.com.doc
URL: http://www.thespec.com/opinion/columns/article/636497–how-easy-is-it-for-you-to-shop

Margaret Denton
How easy is it for you to shop?
Survey of stores and pharmacies shows where the needs are

As we age and some of us find ourselves with physical challenges, an age-friendly shopping experience becomes an important factor that contributes to our continued independence and quality of life. In the Hamilton Council on Aging’s (HCoA) 2010 report, Hamilton: A City for ALL Ages, older adults identified many barriers and obstacles that exist in Hamilton’s outdoor spaces and buildings that present a challenge to their quality of life and need to be addressed.

As a part of the Hamilton Council on Aging’s initiative to make Hamilton an age-friendly city, the HCoA partnered with McMaster’s rehabilitation sciences and department of health, aging and society to assess the accessibility of 16 grocery stores and pharmacies located in eight Hamilton neighbourhoods. While the assessors found the stores were doing many things right, overall accessibility ranged from moderate to excellent, with one pharmacy assessed as “poor.”

The tool used for this assessment was the Community Health Environment Checklist (CHEC). It focuses on specific environmental features of buildings and their surrounding spaces that may enable or prevent full participation in the community by people with mobility impairments and identifies changes needed to improve accessibility. The CHEC examines five areas that are common features of all buildings: building entrances, indoor usability, restrooms, amenities and safety.

Issues found in some of the grocery stores assessed included crowded aisles, merchandise that was out of reach of those seated in a wheelchair, restroom doors not wide enough to access in a mobility device and toiletry items out of reach from a seated position. Some pharmacies were found to lack accessible parking spaces and drop-off areas, and assessors experienced bumpy, cracked and uneven routes leading to the entrance. Nearby curb cuts were in poor condition, entrance thresholds were often too high to safely navigate and some front doors were simply too heavy to open. Inside, merchandise was often out of reach from a seated position.

Eight neighbourhoods were chosen for the study for their large population of older adults. They included four neighbourhoods in central Hamilton, three neighbourhoods from the east end and one on the central Mountain. It is hoped that these study results will spark a public discussion about the way our shops and stores are designed, built and equipped.

Considering this evaluation, the Hamilton Council on Aging offers a number of recommendations to improve the accessibility of grocery stores and pharmacies in Hamilton. While we recognize that some CHEC standards may exceed the requirements of city bylaws, building codes or the forthcoming Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) built environment standards, they are consistent with features of an age-friendly city.

Recommendations made are the responsibility of a combination of municipal government, building owners and the businesses themselves.

Copies of the full report may be found at www.coahamilton.ca.

Dr. Margaret Denton is president of the Hamilton Council on Aging.

Sidebar – Recommendations for building entrances and surrounding environment include:
• Adequate number of accessible parking spaces.
• Parking enforcement procedures for accessible parking spaces.
• Designated drop-off areas if there is no designated parking lot or accessible parking.
• Where applicable, the timing of nearby crosswalks should be adjusted so people can safely cross the street.
• All entrance doors should have automatic door openers.
• Property should be maintained to prevent tripping hazards.
• Routes to the accessible entrances should be smooth and wide.
Recommendations concerning interior space include:
• Entrances need to be a minimum of 32 inches wide and unobstructed.
• Merchandise displays should not crowd or block pathways.
• If all merchandise cannot be reached from a seated position, staff should be readily available to provide assistance.
Recommendations concerning restrooms and amenities include:
• Accessible restrooms or information on the nearest accessible restrooms should be available in all pharmacies.
• All restroom entrances and stall doors should be a minimum of 36 inches wide.
• Grab bars should be located on each side wall around restroom toilets.
• All restroom features should be reachable from a seated position and operable with one closed fist.

We encourage all retail and service organizations to reflect on the question of just how age-friendly their operations are. Given population aging, more and more of their customers will be in this demographic.

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September 30 2011 from website queensjournal.ca.doc
URL: http://queensjournal.ca/story/2011-09-30/news/training-mandatory-new-graduate-students/
Training mandatory for new graduate students
School of Graduate Studies makes an online accessbility course a requirement to graduate
By Katherine Fernandez-Blance, News Editor
AODA 800 is mandatory for all new graduate students. The course is also required for all Queen’s members that interact with the public domain.

Students new to the School of Graduate Studies are now required to take an online course on accessibility.

Developed and launched at Queen’s in 2009, the course was first made a mandatory course at McMaster University last year.

AODA 800, a non-credit course, was created after a 2008 provincial act stipulated that individuals who work in the public domain undergo mandatory accessibility training.

It’s already a mandatory requirement for all members of Queen’s that interact with the public on behalf of the university. The School of Graduate Studies asked Queen’s Senate in March to approve the course as an academic requirement for graduate students.

The Senate Committee on Academic Procedures rejected the proposal but decided that the course become a non-academic requirement instead.

“We felt that this is something that would really be valuable for our graduate students,” said Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies Brenda Brouwer.

Brouwer said the School of Graduate Studies hoped making the course a requirement to graduate would ensure that students understood the barriers disabled people face.

“Queen’s certainly recognizes the values of equity and diversity,” Brouwer said.

The online course can be completed in less than two hours and there is no fee associated with it.

While Brouwer said Queen’s is committed to achieving a fully-accessible university, she added that “it would be naïve” to think that this course is enough.

“It is an important step in the right direction,” she said.

There are no plans to expand the course at this point, she said, adding that the course is online to engage the user better.

“Alternate modes of delivery would be extremely resource intensive, not to mention challenging to coordinate and schedule,” Brouwer told the Journal via email.

“Once you’ve completed according to the equity database, we’ll be able to indicate it as ‘pass’ on the transcript,” she said. “It’s meant to be an educational tool,” she said.

For graduate students who enrolled at Queen’s prior to September 2011, the course won’t be a mandatory requirement to graduate, but will be “strongly recommended.”

Brouwer said it wouldn’t be fair to add additional graduation requirements to students who are already part way through their programs.

Jeanette Parsons, disability services advisor with Health, Counseling and Disability Services was involved with the initial design of the course.

“[Queen’s] took the lead on putting in a proposal to the [the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario],” Parsons said. “We had an extraordinary group of people at Queen’s.” Parsons said the course takes what was provincially legislated to cover and puts it in a university context.

“The examples and scenarios are all based on someone being in a university environment,” Parsons said.

For many people, attitude can be the biggest hurdle when dealing with issues of accessibility, Parsons said.

The course points to things like teaching methods for students who need alternate learning formats.

“Students with disabilities were involved in advising on the creation of the content and certainly the testing,” she said.

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October 5 2011 thestar.com.doc
Property hunters with disabilities facing access crisis
Robyn Doolittle
Toronto Star
URL: http://www.yourhome.ca/homes/realestate/article/1065406–property-hunters-with-disabilities-facing-access-crisis

Anecdotally, it was thought to be one of the only wheelchair accessible units available in Toronto, although there’s no way to know for sure. MLS.ca doesn’t have a search option for that.

Located near downtown in the trendy Distillery District, the two-bedroom, two-bedroom unit featured roll-up counters in the kitchen and bathrooms, a curbless shower in the master bath, pocket doors throughout, minimized thresholds and an automatic front door with remote.

The suite was on the market more than 20 days. A handful of buyers with disabilities viewed the property, said realtor John MacEwen, but the $410,000 asking price was a deal breaker.

The couple that eventually purchased the property will be renovating it into a traditional — for lack of a better word — space. And that means one less accessible condo property in a market that’s starving for them.

A lack of inventory is just one of the problems that advocates say is creating a crisis for property hunters with physical disabilities.

New provincial legislation, which is part of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, is supposed to make things easier, but those in the community say developers are shockingly ignorant about the looming changes.

“Generally, the industry — contractors, designers, architects — is very unaware of what’s coming,” said Frances Jewett, a business development manager with a group called AccessAbility Advantage ( www.accessabilityadvantage.ca).

The Building, Industry and Land Development Association (BILD, www.bildgta.ca) has hired AccessAbility Advantage to put together a training program for the industry. The first phase will begin this fall.

In the meantime, people like Tim McCallum, a 31-year-old quadriplegic who spent six months trying to find housing, will continue to struggle.

“It shouldn’t be so hard for us, considering we have so many other challenges to face in the world,” said McCallum. “Helpless is the word that comes to mind. I’m disappointed that the system isn’t able to help people with disabilities. I’m frustrated that there doesn’t’ seem to be anything doing done about it.”

McCallum, a singer and motivational speaker living in Toronto on a work visa from Australia, visited 150 different properties that boasted to be disability friendly.

Of those, the vast majority were merely located in buildings with an automatic door. A handful had wide doors and low light switches. None had the roll-in shower McCallum required.

McCallum eventually found a place by sheer luck. Someone at the Canadian Paraplegic Association happened to hear about an owner of a midtown apartment suite who just happened to put in a curbless shower, which just fit the wheelchair. McCallum had to make other concessions; there was very little room to transfer in and out of his chair for bed, and there were no push buttons at the front door. But in the Toronto market, it was a gem.

Sandra Carpenter, executive director of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto ( www.cilt.ca), said one of the biggest barriers is cost. The majority of those who make use of her organization are on a limited income.

“If money’s not a problem, you can renovate a house,” she said. “In Toronto, it’s hard for people even without disabilities to find affordable housing. When you add the accessibility piece on top of it, you have a real problem.”

And when it comes to renovations, those aren’t always possible, especially in a condo. That’s one of the areas the new legislation is aiming to fix.

In 2001, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act came into effect. Essentially what that legislation did was make publicly funded entities — school boards, universities, municipalities, hospitals, etc. — disability friendly.

Accessibility planning as well as some barrier removal was mandated and municipalities were made to create advisory panels.

But what the act didn’t do was have an impact on the places where people spend most of their lives, explains Diane Morrell, who is the regional services coordinator at Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario ( www.cpaont.org) and also the chair of the Sault St. Marie committee.

“I’m talking about the grocery store. We all go to restaurants. The little places around the corner we shop and receive services,” she said. “The ODA covers the public sector. The new legislation covers everybody else.”

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was created in 2005. At its core, the goal of the AODA is to make the entire province accessible by 2025. This is happening through various phases and initiatives that are currently being rolled out.

As far as the development industry is concerned, the big change will come with the new built environment standards act, which will likely be rolled out sometime late next year or in 2013. The industry is not prepared.

Under current regulations, about 10 per cent of a highrise building must be considered “barrier free,” meaning no stairs, roomier bathrooms and bigger doorways. The new legislation is expected to widely expand those requirements.

The program will be broken into different streams depending on the individual’s area. For contractors: how to understand a client’s needs and how to design for those needs. For others: common design solutions that comply with the new standards and provide a high level of accessibility.

This means wider doors, push-button access and barrier-free entrances, among other things, for the entire building, and on a single-unit level, simple design solutions that will make it easier to convert a suite into a wheelchair accessible unit, said Susan Ruptash, who also works with the organization.

“The standard also requires that most suites have adaptable features to make it easy and less expensive to modify to meet someone’s specific needs. Some of these features include the strategic placement of non-structural walls so bedrooms and bathrooms can be easily enlarged in the future, as well as rough-in plumbing to permit easier installation of a larger roll-in or walk-in shower,” said Ruptash.

George Carras, president of RealNet Canada Inc., an information resource for the building industry and land development organizations ( www.realnet.ca), said in the 15 years his organization has been tracking the market, this is the first time he’s been asked about the accessibility issue.

“It’s nothing that I would say is very visible in many of the development programs right now. They all comply to what’s required, and I know that some of them, just anecdotally, will work with purchasers to customize units as they can,” he said.

Considering the aging population and looming legislative changes, Carras predicts forward-thinking builders will likely take notice of the untapped market.

“Developers are very good at responding to market demand. . . . I think if there were opportunities for that in large scale, I think you would absolutely see developers respond to that in very creative ways.”

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