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New Provincial Accessibility Regulations Affect New Business and Major Renovations

Posted By Jim Barber
September 24, 2009

As part of its new commitment to making Ontario more accessible for people living with disabilities, the provincial government passed The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005.

Within it’s framework, a number of committees have been set up and provided recommendations and new regulations outlining how the various sectors of the province need to become more accessible.

Recently, a report regarding proposed new regulations regarding how businesses are to be accessible came was released.

A press release and information backgrounder was circulated by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and forwarded to chamber members and other stakeholders in Lennox & Addington County, bit the Greater Napanee Chamber of Commerce.

Kathy Medd, the chamber’s manager, said the province has been trying to get the information out about the changes to building regulations regard so-called ‘built environments’ since the spring.

“I think the province has really tried to get the information out to the public about what’s going on … but there’s a lot there, in terms of digesting it all. There’s a lot for businesses to go through. And so the kind of communication that the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has put out I think is useful because it helps target those important points that businesses need to be aware of.”

The rules and regulations are still at the draft stage, and comment is being welcomed by the provincial government, from businesses and the general public.

The new proposed accessibility standards will impact on all aspects of a building’s design and function, including: entrances, doorways, ramps, stairs, curbs, crossings, street furniture, washrooms, showers, drinking fountains, signage, telephones, air quality, acoustics and lighting.

That is a pretty comprehensive list of improvements to be made.

But the saving grace for most businesses, especially small businesses, is that the new standard only come into play for new construction, and facilities that undergo major renovations.

“And there has been some talk or concern around this. There’s a lot of old buildings in the downtown. The sidewalks are not that deep. So what are you going to do? And what I thought was nice to see, and that they made note of in this communique, is that the government does not plan to impose requirements on retrofitting existing buildings,” said Medd.

The committee that came up with the proposed rules and standards is recommending that any new construction projects to come in line within 12 months of the regulations coming into force, while those enterprises that are completing a substantial renovation will have between 12 and 36 months to comply.

“As far as retrofitting existing buildings, they’re not imposing requirements at this time. And just thinking of the many small business locally, in a lot of these small rural downtowns, I breathe a sigh of relief for them, because you’re looking at quite an onerous task for them to retrofit these buildings,” said Medd, who added that it is important for anyone who has issues with the new regulations to make their opinions known to the provincial government while they are still at the draft stage.

“They’re looking for comments. The public review is open until Oct. 16, so they are really encouraging people to give them some feedback. The Ontario Chamber does have a representative sitting on the built environment committee, so they are bringing forward concerns from the business community.”

Business owners, or potential business owners are encouraged to peruse the proposed regulations at
http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/mcss/english/pillars/accessibilityOntario/accesson/business/environment/.

There are links on there to provide feedback.

Article ID# 1768181

Reproduced from http://www.napaneeguide.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1768181