By Elena Maystruk, Age Dispatch
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
A current review of Ontario’s accessibility legislation prompted feedback from Middlesex County critical of the Design of Public Spaces (DOPS) regulations enforcement.
Many of the regulations for DOPS which would require businesses and organizations to make outdoor spaces accessible to people with disabilities don’t include an approval process that would help organizations judge the requirements or exemptions of the legislation, said Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) coordinator Jennifer Cowan in a report on June 24.
“For example, if a new developer is putting in a new parking lot there’s no approval from the province saying, yes, you’ve done this correctly,” said Cowan in a follow up interview.
She added, the developer would be left to judge for themselves if the legislation applies and perhaps not know about the specifics of the regulations.
Part of the county’s feedback on the independent review reads, “While the County is understanding of this operation under the law, it points out that under the AODA [Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act], there is no approval process in place for many DOPS standard requirements or exemptions.
As a practical matter, private entities involved in designing public spaces are left to make their own interpretation on whether they comply with subjective standards.”
The DOPS recommendations apply to standards that fall outside of the Ontario Building Code. They include trails and beach access, outdoor eating areas and play spaces, parking, sidewalks and more.
Public sector organizations like the municipality must be in compliance with the regulations by 2016, according to Cowan and the Government of Ontario website.
A concern from the county is, the DOPS standards could be applied inconsistently throughout the province and more specifically in Middlesex County.
The county’s comments continued, “These issues will likely not come to anyone’s attention until a complaint is made, which will likely happen after the construction project is complete and no ability to make a correction.”
According to the report brought to council, the municipality’s feedback on the regulations comes on the heels of a second independent review of Ontario’s accessibility legislation. The province appointed Dean Mayo Moran of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law to conduct the legislation review with a mandate to provide the province with public feedback regarding the AODA.
The county will submit it’s comments to the independent reviewer and the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to identify an approval process that would better educate organizations of DOPS compliance requirements prior to a construction process.