Accessibility Amendments to the Ontario Building Code for Property Managers
Samantha Proulx, Project Consultant (Accessibility & Building Code) at Jensen Hughes Consulting Canada Ltd, was interviewed on the accessibility amendments to the 2012 Ontario Building Code (effective January 1, 2015) that every property manager should know.
What are the major accessibility amendments to the 2012 Ontario Building Code?
To list a few, some of the amendments made to Section 3.8., “Barrier-Free Design” of the 2012 Ontario Building Code are as follows:
1. A tactile attention indicator is required to be provided at:
- tops of stairs
- pedestrian’s routes that are part of vehicular routes
- changes in elevation greater than 250 mm
2. One of the required barrier-free entrances must include the principle entrance.
3. Where a barrier-free path of travel is less than 1600 mm wide, a clear area (lay-by space) of 1800 mm by 1800 mm is required to be provided at 30 m intervals.
4. Doors are required to have a minimum clear width of 860 mm.
5. Power door operators must be installed on a door serving a required barrier-free entrance, washroom for public use (unrestricted access), or amenity space serving a Group C, Residential occupancy.
6. Vestibules are required to be provided with a distance of 1500 mm between two doors in series and, where vestibule doors are not aligned, be provided with a 1500 mm turning circle within the vestibule (clear of the door swing).
7. A minimum number of universal washrooms must be provided in a building, based on its height. In summary, a universal washroom is required to:
- be equipped with space for an adult-size change table – unless exempted
- have an emergency call system
- have motion sensor lighting
- allow for a person in a wheelchair to turn in a space not less than 1700 mm in diameter
8. A stall located in a barrier-free multi-stall washroom is required to incorporate an unobstructed 1500 mm turning circle.
9. Angled grab bars adjacent to water closets have been replaced with L-shaped grab bars.
10. Normally occupied floor areas, not served by a barrier-free path of travel, are required to be designed with minimal barrier-free features (i.e. non barrier-free washrooms to include an ambulatory water closet stall).
11. Assembly seating areas require both designated wheelchair seating and adaptable seating.
12. Public pools are required to provide barrier-free access into the pool water by way of a lift, or ramp.
Why were these amendments made?
The accessibility amendments were adopted from the AODA as part of Ontario’s goal to become an accessible Province by 2025. Originally, the barrier-free requirements outlined in the Ontario Building Code only addressed provisions for individuals using wheelchairs. The new amendments were introduced to the Code to assist in the removal of barriers to individuals with physical and sensory disabilities, not just those using mobility devices.
What challenges do you foresee in regards to implementation of these new amendments?
The accessibility amendments should not be seen as a challenge, but as an opportunity to create a built environment that is accessible and useable by everyone. However, the ability to design a space that incorporates these more restrictive requirements (i.e. larger lay-by spaces, larger washroom facilities, etc.) may present a challenge for smaller buildings or floor areas (existing or new). The largest challenge lately for designers is the application of barrier-free washrooms (i.e. have they been designed accordingly? if universal washrooms are required, do they need space for an adult-size change table?). It is important to review the requirements and determine what is applicable for that project, as some smaller spaces or existing spaces may be exempt from certain requirements, or grandfathered through Compliance Alternatives outlined in Part 11.
Written by: Samantha Proulx, Project Consultant (Accessibility and Building Code), Jensen Hughes Consulting Canada Ltd.