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Province Moves to Make Buildings More Accessible for Disabled

By Antonella Artuso, Queen’s Park Bureau Chief
First posted: Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Changes coming to the provincial building code will result in the construction of more accessible buildings for people with disabilities in the new year.

The Ontario Building Code will require that new or substantially renovated structures include features such as visual fire alarms starting Jan. 1.

Mark Cripps, a spokesperson for Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Ted McMeekin, said the amendments to the Ontario Building Code follow from the 2005 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) which set a target date of 2025 for an accessible province.

“Greater accessibility benefits all Ontarians, strengthening our communities and the economy,” Cripps said in a statement. “Increased accessibility in employment, retail and tourism spaces can help create significant economic benefits for Ontario.”

David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, warned that the pace of change is so slow the government is unlikely to meet its 2025 target.

The new code amendments still do not require that a building be fully accessible, and do not apply at all to buildings where no major renovations are underway, he said.

“The government has a long history of having the building code’s accessibility provisions lag far behind the needs of people with disabilities,” Lepofsky said.

Lepofsky added the government also has to do a far better job in educating builders about how to comply with the new standards.

The amended building code includes a number of measures to improve access such as power door operators at entrances to more buildings and at barrier-free washrooms and common rooms in multi-unit residential buildings.

The code will also demand more accessible and adaptable seating spaces in public assembly buildings like theatres, lecture halls and churches. New public pools and spas will need to be barrier-free.

Most of the new accessibility Ontario Building Code changes do not apply to single family houses except for a requirement to add a visual component to smoke alarms for the assistance of the hearing impaired.

The revamped Ontario Building Code also helps communities prepare for an aging population, Cripps said.

“With each edition of the building code, accessibility requirements for new buildings and renovations have been expanded and enhanced to reflect advancements in barrier-free design standards,” he added.
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