Waterloo Region Record
By Paige Desmond
WATERLOO Waterloo has updated its stringent standards for accessibility in local development projects, ahead of provincial accessibility rules that take effect in 2017 and 2018.
On Monday, council approved a lengthy document that sets out the rules for new development projects and major renovations. Similar guidelines are expected to also be used by the City of Kitchener and Region of Waterloo.
“One of the purposes of this document was to try and make it a more user friendly, readable document, then there’s a greater likelihood that it’ll be complied with,” said Joel Cotter, director of planning approvals.
The province’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act aims to make the province accessible for all by 2025.
Part of that is applying accessibility standards to new building projects and major renovations.
Bebe Khan, city site plan co-ordinator, said Monday that more than 15 per cent of Ontario’s population has a disability, and that increases to 40 per cent for people over the age of 65.
“The number of people with disabilities is increasing as the population ages,” Khan said.
Accessibility standards will apply more broadly to new builds and renovations starting in 2017.
Building projects and public spaces will need to be accessible, which means developers will in the next two years need to adhere to the rules, Cotter said.
“It’s everything,” Cotter said.
Since 2008, Waterloo has insisted on accessibility measures for development projects in the site plan approval process.
Staff drafted the new accessibility standards document based on those past measures and the new legislation.
“We’re updating our barrier-free guidelines to reflect this new legislation and in some cases we have more stringent requirements than this legislation,” Cotter said. “We’ve gone beyond that.”
Items that might be considered for accessibility include ramps, stairs, parking, recreation areas, outdoor public eating areas and outdoor play areas.
The rules for various large private sector and not-for-profit organizations go into effect Jan. 1, 2017, and rules for small private sector and not-for-profits start Jan. 1, 2018.
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