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Residents Struggle With Accessibility Issues

Wednesday, January, 29, 2014
By James Jackson

For two years residents of this apartment at 237 Auburn Dr. have been trying to get the owner to install an automatic door.

Residents in a Waterloo apartment building will not get any help from the city or the province in their bid to have an automatic door installed at their building.
For two years, Harvey Bellefeuille has been trying to get the building owners to install an automatic door at the main entrance of the eight storey building at 237 Auburn Dr. So far he’s been unsuccessful, and the city and the province do not require residential buildings to be retrofitted with barrier-free doors.

Bellefeuille said many of the residents of the apartment, especially seniors, struggle with the heavy doors in the winter or during high winds. He has to wrestle with the door as well ever since he suffered a stroke in June 2012 and must use an electric scooter to get around.

Two years ago he filed a work order request for an electric door with the building’s owners, Kingsley Management, but he said he didn’t hear back. A year ago he followed up with another request, which also went unanswered.

He phoned the company last November and was told they were looking for quotes on a door. Bellefeuille called again in December but was told it would be too expensive and too complicated for them to install.

Bellefeuille was told they were looking to get another quote. He said the original quote was for about $5,000.

“It doesn’t take six to 12 weeks to get quotations, there’s lots of companies out there looking for business,” Bellefeuille said, adding the door has already caused several hundred dollars worth of damage to his scooter by slamming shut in heavy winds.

A request by the Chronicle to speak with a representative from Kingsley Management went unanswered.

Accessibility requirements in the 2012 building code for residential buildings address a range of accessibility needs, including barrier-free entrance to a building, a barrier-free path to travel through the common areas of the building, and the number of suites that must include accessibility features, but those only apply to new builds or to extensive renovations to existing buildings.

That means there is almost nothing the city or province can do to require the apartment owner install the automatic doors.

“It’s an Ontario regulation that governs the construction and there’s no requirement in the code, and that’s a surprise,” said Ralph Kaminski, chief building official at the City of Waterloo.

“You wouldn’t have to retroactively install them on a building unless you were doing work on that building and specifically that work would have to be to an entrance.”

Commercial or institutional buildings all require accessible doors in Ontario, according to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, but the city cannot write a bylaw more restrictive than provincial legislation related to residential buildings.

Local Waterloo Region District School Board trustee John Hendry, an advocate for accessibility and a member of the new Accessibility Standards Advisory Council and Standards Development Committee, is troubled by the shortcomings in residential accessibility standards.

The mandate of his committee is to review Ontario’s current accessibility standards and help develop new standards as the need arises, and he said he’d mention the issue during their meeting today and tomorrow.

“I think the rationale is that it’s private, not public,” said Hendry as to why there is no requirement in the code for residential buildings.

Hendry suggests residents file a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario if their landlord continues to ignore requests for an automatic door. He said building owners who fail to make their buildings more accessible are losing out in the long run.

“They see the dollars that it costs and they don’t see past that, where in fact if their building was more accessible they could attract people that could stay a lot longer,” Hendry said. “If (residents) find a building that is accessible and meets their needs, they’ll stay there a long time.”

Reproduced from