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When Will a Built Environment Accessibility Standard be Enacted?

July 8, 2011

SUMMARY

Now that the Ontario government has enacted the Integrated Accessibility Regulation to address barriers in transportation, employment, and information and communication, our attention turns to the remaining unfinished accessibility standard that has been in the works to date. That is the Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

What has happened so far on this front? To summarize, under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act the Government appointed a Built Environment Standards Development Committee several years ago to develop a proposal for the Built Environment Accessibility Standard. One year ago that Committee finished its work and sent the Government its final proposal .

One year ago, the Community and Social Services Minister committed in the Legislature that this standard would be enacted by the end of last year. However it was not enacted last year, and will not be enacted this year. It is still being studied by two Ontario Government Ministries, the Community and Social Services Ministry and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

We have asked lead officials in both ministries for their plans for finishing this project. No end date, time lines or detailed roadmap was given.

To the extent that the Built Environment Accessibility Standard will cover areas that fit within the scope of the Ontario Building Code, the Government plans to enact them by an amendment to the Building Code itself. To the extent that it addresses areas that the Building Code does not address, the Government appears to plan to address it by a Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA. Whether there are Building Code amendments, we also want any and all such requirements also incorporated into the Built Environment Accessibility Standard. This would enable us to have all the safeguards under the AODA for which we campaigned so long and hard, such as a mandatory five year review with assured input from persons with disabilities. The Government does not appear to have taken any position on that issue as of now.

We also know that the Built Environment Accessibility Standard will only cover new buildings and major renovations. It will not address any need for retrofits an any existing buildings that are not undergoing any renovations, regardless of how low-cost be the retrofit and how important be the building. Two years ago, the McGuinty Government committed that that retrofit issue will be addressed later, through the standards development process.

Among its most recent email communications to us, the Ministry has said this:

“The standard will include both changes to the Ontario Building Code in areas such as entrances, doorways and ramps, as well as, address areas related to accessible outdoor spaces, parks and trails. The AODA regulations are on a go-forward basis and will not require retrofit of existing structures.”

An important issue for whomever forms the next Government of Ontario after this October’s provincial election will be finalizing and enacting a strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard. We plan to seek election commitments on this from the three parties.

MORE DETAILS

Here is the chronology of key events in the development of the Built Environment Accessibility Standard that we have been able to discover.

* On July 14, 2009, the McGuinty Government made public the initial proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard. This proposal was developed by the Built Environment Standards Development Committee.

The public was given until October 16, 2009 to send the Government feedback on this proposal. Visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/07242009.asp

* On July 24, 2009, we announced the following:

“The Government’s initial announcement on July 14, 2009 stated in seemingly categorical terms that it would not pass a Built Environment Accessibility Standard that included retrofits to existing buildings, or any requirements for residential homes. As a result of feedback the Government later received from the disability community, including from the AODA Alliance, the Government has amended its initial announcements. It has committed to establishing in the future a Standards Development Committee process to deal with retrofitting of existing buildings, and accessible housing issues.”

* On June 1, 2010, Community and Social Services Minister Meilleur committed in Question Period in the Legislature that the four accessibility standards that were then under development, including the Built Environment Accessibility Standard, will be enacted by the end of 2010. She stated: “Before the end of this year, the five standards will be in place.”

* In July, 2010, the Built Environment Standards Development Committee finished its work. It completed its final proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard, and submitted it to the Ontario Government.

* On September 10, 2011, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, part of the Community and Social Services Ministry, posted the final proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard on the Ontario Government’s website for 45 days. This was the final proposal of this accessibility standard that the Built Environment Standards Development Committee had prepared. The Government did not request public input on that proposal at that time. After that 45-day period the Government intended to remove that proposal from its website. The Government’s email announcement is set out below. You can find the final proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard and related documents that the Government released with it, on our website, as a permanent record, at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/092010.asp

* On September 28, 2010, Minister Meilleur committed that the Built Environment Accessibility Standard would cover barriers both inside and outside buildings. Speaking to the “Business Takes Action” Symposium, Community and Social Services Minister Meilleur said (according to her speaking notes): “And last but not least, we have the Built Environment Standard. This will address access into and within buildings and outdoor spaces.”

* On October 14, 2010, Minister Meilleur committed that the final public review period for the Built Environment Accessibility Standard would likely be in 2011. That is the period when the Government posts a draft of the accessibility regulation that it proposes to enact for a final round of public comment and input, after it has reviewed proposals from the Built Environment Standards Development Committee. On that date, speaking to honour “World Standards Day” at the Standards Council of Canada, the Community and Social Services Minister stated (according to her speaking notes): “The Built Environment Standard – which will address access into and within buildings and outdoor spaces – is at an earlier stage of development. It has been submitted by the standards development committee for consideration and is now available on my ministry’s website for the public to see. The public review period for the Built Environment Standard will likely take place next year.”

* In October, 2010, the Government announced that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing would be undertaking a consultation on proposed changes to the Ontario Building Code. The first round of consultations, to begin in the fall of 2010, would not include changes to the Building Code arising from the final proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Rather, that was being deferred to a later consultation by that Ministry.

* On February 23, 2011, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, part of the Community and Social Services Ministry, sent out an email announcing that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing was commencing a second round of consultations on changes to the Ontario Building Code. However, that too would not include accessibility issues arising from the final proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Accessibility issues were again being deferred to a future time that was not specified. It stated: “I want to reassure you that the government continues to consider the Final Proposed Accessible Built Environment Standard submitted to the Minister in July 2010, and is working hard to respond to requests for further research in key areas of the proposed standard to make sure that when we move forward, all requirements will be clear, consistent, enforceable and will build on current accessibility requirements.”

* On June 9, 2011, the AODA Alliance wrote the two public officials with lead responsibility for this issue at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Community and Social Services Ministry respectively. (Letter set out below.) We asked for “a detailed and comprehensive update on the state of the government’s work toward enacting the Built Environment Accessibility Standard.” More specifically, we asked:
“It is our understanding that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is working on proposals for incorporating changes regarding accessibility of the built environment within buildings, into the Ontario Building Code, where they fall within the scope of the Building Code. We also understand that proposals from the Standards Development Committee that do not fall within the scope of the Ontario Building Code, are now the focus of work by the Accessibility Directorate at the Ministry of Community & Social Services. To the extent that those are enacted into law, the latter would not be done by amendments to the Building Code.

We want to know in detail what has been done in both of these areas, since the Standards Development Committee submitted its final proposal last year. We also want to know what plans the Government has in both of your ministries, and elsewhere, for completing this project. Among other things, we would appreciate learning about the current time lines that are now expected for completing the work that each of your respective ministries is now undertaking.

Finally, we are eager to ensure that whatever is enacted, including any changes to the Building Code, is also fully enforceable as a standard enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. What decisions have been made, or action taken in this regard to date.”

* On June 24, 2011, the two senior Ontario Government officials whom we had written, wrote us a joint response, set out below. They described their activities in very general terms, and gave no time lines for finalization of the Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Their letter’s key content was as follows:

“The Accessible Built Environment Standard is still under development. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) are working together to complete a careful analysis of the proposed standard. In addition, you may be aware that the Standards Development Committee identified a number of areas where additional research was required in order to develop regulations, which were not part of the Final Proposed Standard. These additional recommendations are also part of our analysis of the Standard Development Committee’s recommendations.

We are working hard to make sure that the requirements put forward are clear, consistent and enforceable, and build on current accessibility requirements. Once this analysis is complete, the government will make decisions on what requirements will be proposed as regulations and when they will come into force.”

Send us your feedback. Write us at: aodafeedback@gmail.com

*****

ONTARIO GOVERNMENT SEPTEMBER 9, 2010 EMAIL ANNOUNCING ITS 45-DAY POSTING OF THE FINAL PROPOSED BUILT ENVIRONMENT ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD

NOTICE:

The Final Proposed Accessible Built Environment Standard, as part of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, has now been posted on the Ministry of Community and Social Services’ website.

The final proposed standard was developed by an external Accessible Built Environment Standards Development Committee (ABE-SDC). This external committee included representatives from the disability community as well as the public and private sectors.

The initial proposed standard was released for its mandatory public review period from July 14, 2009 to October 16, 2009. The committee then revised the initial proposed standard to reflect the public’s input resulting in the Final Proposed Accessible Built Environment Standard. The final proposed standard has now been submitted to the government for consideration, it is not law.

Those interested in reading the ABE-SDC’s final proposed standard can find more information on the Ministry of Community and Social Services’ website at:

All the documents posted are available in alternate formats. Requests for alternate formats and all other inquiries about this posting should be directed to:

E-mail: builtenvironmentstandardinquiries@ontario.ca

Telephone: 416-314-0416

TTY: 416-325-3408 / 1-800-268-7095

Fax: 416-325-9620

*****

FEBRUARY 23, 2011 EMAIL FROM THE ACCESSIBILITY DIRECTORATE OF ONTARIO

Ministry of Community and Social Services
Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
On February 22, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing released information to support a second series of consultations about potential amendments to the Ontario Building Code (OBC). The first series was completed in fall 2010. I am writing to advise you that accessibility requirements that were submitted as part of the Final Proposed Accessible Built Environment Standard are not included in this latest series, but will be at a later date.

I want to reassure you that the government continues to consider the Final Proposed Accessible Built Environment Standard submitted to the Minister in July 2010, and is working hard to respond to requests for further research in key areas of the proposed standard to make sure that when we move forward, all requirements will be clear, consistent, enforceable and will build on current accessibility requirements.

Ministry of Community
and Social Services
Accessibility Directorate
of Ontario

*****

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit our website at http://www.aodaalliance.org
Fax (416) 480-7014

June 9, 2011

Via Email

Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister
Accessibility Directorate
Ministry of Community & Social Services
777 Bay Street, 6th Floor
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 2J4
ellen.waxman@ontario.ca

Vincent Fabiilli, Assistant Deputy Minister (Acting)
Municipal Services Division
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
777 Bay Street, 16th Floor
Toronto, Ontario
M5G 2E5
vincent.fabiilli@ontario.ca

Dear Ms Waxman and Mr. Fabiilli,

Re: Built Environment Accessibility Standard

The Ontario government has just enacted the Integrated Accessibility Regulation to address barriers facing people with disabilities in transportation, employment, and information and communication. Attention now turns to the one remaining accessibility standard that has been in the works to date, namely the Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

The government of Ontario has committed to enact the Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It is intended to address barriers that impede people with disabilities from gaining full access to the built environment.

The first anniversary is now approaching of the date when the Built Environment Standards Development Committee sent the Ontario government its final proposal for the Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

We write to ask for a detailed and comprehensive update on the state of the government’s work toward enacting the Built Environment Accessibility Standard. The final proposed built environment standard, emanating from the Built Environment Standards Development Committee, includes proposals for both the inside of buildings and the external built environment outside buildings.

It is our understanding that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is working on proposals for incorporating changes regarding accessibility of the built environment within buildings, into the Ontario Building Code, where they fall within the scope of the Building Code. We also understand that proposals from the Standards Development Committee that do not fall within the scope of the Ontario Building Code, are now the focus of work by the Accessibility Directorate at the Ministry of Community & Social Services. To the extent that those are enacted into law, the latter would not be done by amendments to the Building Code.

We want to know in detail what has been done in both of these areas, since the Standards Development Committee submitted its final proposal last year. We also want to know what plans the Government has in both of your ministries, and elsewhere, for completing this project. Among other things, we would appreciate learning about the current time lines that are now expected for completing the work that each of your respective ministries is now undertaking.

Finally, we are eager to ensure that whatever is enacted, including any changes to the Building Code, is also fully enforceable as a standard enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. What decisions have been made, or action taken in this regard to date.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. As always, we remain eager for any opportunity to assist the government in its implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc: William Forward, Deputy Minister, Municipal Affairs & Housing – william.forward@ontario.ca
Marg Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Community & Social Services – marg.rappolt@ontario.ca

*****

Ministry of Community and Social Services

Assistant Deputy Minister
Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
6th floor, Suite 601a
777 Bay Street
Toronto ON M7A 2J4
Tel: 416-212-0927
Fax: 416-325-9620

>June 24, 2011

Mr. David Lepofsky
Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

Thank you for your email on June 9, 2011 regarding the status of the Final Proposed Accessible Built Environment Standard.

As you know, the Final Proposed Accessible Built Environment Standard was submitted by the Standards Development Committee to the Minister of Community and Social Services for her consideration in July of last year. The standard is intended to reduce physical barriers for persons with disabilities in both buildings and the exterior environment.

The recommendations made by the Standards Development Committee are highly complex and cover a broad range of elements within the built environment that address areas currently covered by Ontario’s Building Code (OBC) and outdoor spaces such as playgrounds and trails.

The Accessible Built Environment Standard is still under development. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) are working together to complete a careful analysis of the proposed standard. In addition, you may be aware that the Standards Development Committee identified a number of areas where additional research was required in order to develop regulations, which were not part of the Final Proposed Standard. These additional recommendations are also part of our analysis of the Standard Development Committee’s recommendations.

We are working hard to make sure that the requirements put forward are clear, consistent and enforceable, and build on current accessibility requirements. Once this analysis is complete, the government will make decisions on what requirements will be proposed as regulations and when they will come into force.

As we move forward on the Built Environment Standard, we will continue to value the advice from all of our stakeholders to help us develop standards that will benefit all Ontarians.

If you have any further questions please contact us. Thank you again for your continued interest in accessibility for all Ontarians.

Sincerely,

Original signed by original signed by

Ellen Waxman Vincent Fabiilli
Assistant Deputy Minister (A) Assistant Deputy Minister

c: Marg Rappolt
Deputy Minister
Ministry of Community and Social Services

William Forward
Deputy Minister
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

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