Updated: Sep 15, 2021
Accessibility to services, and common spaces is the law. If your building owner or condominium board don't want to spend money tell them to think again. All building owners, commercial tenants, and condominium directors should be aware of potential human rights complaints under Ontario's Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act as they relate to accessibility to their buildings. Under both pieces of legislation, building owners, agents, and operators have a duty to accommodate persons with disabilities.
This blog has been prepared by SBS Group to assist professionals in the multi residential and commercial industry better understand physical building accessibility standards. Some examples include exterior pathway widths, entrance ramps elevations, stairwell tread nosing, tactile indicators, power door operators, pool/spa assistance devices, hand rail dimensions, and signage sizes and types. In Ontario building organizations are subject to the Ontario Human Rights Code, The Ontario Building Code (OBC), and The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
A large group of Ontarians have mobility-related disabilities which make it difficult for them to navigate stairs, open doors, read "way finding" signs, or even reach paper towel from a public washroom dispenser. Of these 1.12 million people roughly 60% are under the age of 65.
The province of Ontario introduced laws and standards in 2005 to reduce and remove the barriers people do face in every day life. Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) sets out the roadmap to make Ontario accessible by 2025. Under this act accessibility standards are being developed and implemented to break down barriers in key areas of every day life. The standards will increase accessibility for people with disabilities in the areas of customer service, information and communications, employment, and transportation in the built environment.
Identifying, preventing and removing barriers for people with disabilities creates an Ontario that is accessible for everyone. Whether you're pushing a stroller, or making a delivery, using a walker or using a wheelchair. People with disabilities will choose a business or place to live where they feel welcome and where they can easily get the products and services they want. People with disabilities and ageing consumers are a large and growing group and often live in apartments and condominiums.
The a AODA and Ontario Human Rights Code define "disability" as: any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, and brain injury, anything with paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impairment, deafness or hearing impairment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other media appliance or device. A condition of mental impairment or developmental disability. A learning disability, or a disfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language. A mental disorder, or an injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received and the insurance plan established under the workplace safety insurance act, 1997 ("handicap").
City of Toronto built environment and design of public spaces
The city of Toronto recognizes that built environment barriers are a form of discrimination and is committed to increasing accessibility of public spaces. The design of public spaces standard under the IASR requires that newly constructed or re-developed public spaces are accessible. In addition, the city is compliant with the barrier free design requirements of the Ontario Building Code and strives to achieve a high level of accessibility in public spaces as well as all city workspaces.
58. Continue to maintain and update the Toronto accessibility design guidelines(6)TADG Corporate Real Estate Management.
59. Continue to prioritize and retrofit existing built environment barriers and facilities under its management to comply with the TADG (Corporate Real Estate Management, all divisions with responsibility for the management of city of Toronto on facilities and spaces).
60. Continue to implement accessibility improvement as part of state of good repair AODA capital programs (Corporate Real Estate Management, all divisions with responsibility for the management of city of Toronto on facilities and spaces).
61. Ensure accessibility considerations are incorporated into Shelter Design Guidelines through best practice research and consultation with people with disabilities and the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee (Shelter, Support and Housing Administration).
62. Continue to maintain accessible elements in public spaces monitoring and regularly planned preventative maintenance of accessible elements (all divisions with responsibility for the management of city of Toronto on facilities and spaces).
63. Continue to respond to temporary disruptions when accessible elements in public spaces are not in working order by notifying the public and prioritizing remediation (all divisions with responsibility for the management of city of Toronto on facilities and spaces).
Improved accessibility of city of Toronto public spaces and work places by incorporating accessibility into the design of new facilities as well as during renovations and redevelopment of existing facilities. Prevention and removal of accessibility barriers within the city facilities through the mandatory use and enforcement of the TADG for new city facilities and during renovations and redevelopment of existing facilities. The TADG acts as a standard of best practice and accessibility for construction and renovating city facilities and public spaces by meeting or exceeding the Ontario building code barrier free requirements and the AODA Design of Public Spaces Standards.
Accessibility in Ontario Building Code
The 2012 Building Code defines the accessibility requirements for most new construction and extensive renovations of buildings. These include requirements for:
barrier-free access paths of travel
fire safety devices
access to pools and saunas
seating in public spaces
The requirements apply to most new construction and extensive renovations in Ontario, and work together with the Design of Public Spaces Standard.
Existing buildings are not affected unless an extensive renovation is planned.
Houses, including semi-detached houses, townhouse and duplexes are affected by smoke alarm requirements, but are not affected by most of the other accessibility requirements.
Barrier-free path of travel
Most building types must have a barrier-free path of travel throughout. There are also requirements related to publicly used spaces, such as entrances, rooms and hallways, throughout buildings that include:
passing and rest spaces
minimum doorway and corridor widths
power door operators
tactile walking entrance indicators
Barrier-free access between floors
Most new buildings are required to provide barrier free-access between all floors including:
Assembly buildings, such as theaters, community centers, and places of worship
Care buildings, such as long-term care homes
Commercial/retail buildings, such as supermarkets and shops
Barrier-free floor access is also required for residential and office buildings over:
3 storeys high
600 square metres in building area
At least 15% of suites within a multi-unit residential building must be designed with basic accessibility features such as a barrier-free path of travel and doorways into the:
Suites with accessibility features must be distributed throughout the building and represent the types and sizes of suites available in the building. For example, if a building has one and two bedroom suites, accessibility features must be available for both types.
Visual fire safety devices
Visual fire alarms and smoke alarms equipped with a visual component are an important part of enhancing public life safety for all occupants of a building. Visual fire and smoke alarms must be on every floor and in every sleeping room of residential buildings. The visual component conforming to National Fire protection association standards.
most buildings must have barrier free washrooms in public areas. The washrooms must be situated on a barrier free path of travel and meet building code requirements addressing:
Access to pools and spas
Pools and spas provide important recreational and exercise opportunities for people of all ages and abilities. Ontario's Building Code requires barrier-free access to and around all public pools and some public spas.
Seating in public spaces
Requirements for accessible seating and public assembly buildings include space for:
side transfer from a wheelchair
adjacent companion seating for accessible seating spaces
storage for wheelchairs and other mobility assistive devices
accessible and adaptable seating throughout the viewing area
Ontario's design of public spaces standards establish a baseline level accessibility for:
power door operators
Accessibility requirements under the Ontario building code only apply to new construction. They also apply if an existing building has plans for extensive renovations. Provincial authorities, including municipalities, are responsible for enforcing the Ontario Building Code. This includes reviewing building plans, issuing permits and conducting construction inspections. To find out about accessibility requirements for buildings in your area, please contact your municipality's building department.
Ontario Human Rights Commission
Human rights in Ontario
Ontario's Human Rights Code is a provincial law that gives everybody equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in specific social areas such as jobs, housing, services, facilities, and contracts or agreements. The code's goal is to prevent discrimination and harassment because of race, sex, disability, and age, to name a few of the 17 grounds. All other Ontario laws must agree with the code. Not all unfair treatment and harassment is covered by the code. Treatment or harassment must be based on at least one code ground and take place within a social area to be protected.
The Ontario Human Rights System is made up of three separate agencies:
The Ontario Human Rights Commission works to promote, protect and advance human rights through research, education, targeted legal action and policy development.
The human rights legal support center gives legal help to people who have experienced discrimination under the code.
The human rights tribunal is where rights applications are filed in decided.
The code protects people from discrimination and harassment because of past, present and perceived disabilities. "Disability" covers a broad range and degree of conditions, some visible and some not visible. Disability may have been present from birth caused by an accident, or developed overtime. There are physical, mental and learning disabilities, mental disorders, hearing or vision disabilities, epilepsy, mental health disabilities and addictions, environmental sensitivities, and other conditions.
Even if the Building Code and the AODA are complied with, all landlords and tenants should be aware of potential human rights complaints under Ontario's human rights code and the Canadian Human Rights Act as they relate to accessibility to their buildings. Under both pieces of legislation, employers have a duty to accommodate persons with disabilities. However, the tribunal recognizes that accommodation is not possible in all situations. An employer or service provider can claim undue hardship because of a policy, practice, bylaw or building renovation, would cost too much or create risks to health and safety. There is no set formula for exceptions to accommodation requirements. The resulting uncertainty necessitates that all landlords and tenants do their own careful review of potential violations and consider solutions for each person who may require additional building accessibility.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
Under the AODA, the deputy minister has the power to appoint inspectors. The inspectors job is to see if persons and organizations are meeting accessibility standards and or complying with the act and its regulations.
The AODA list all of the activities that an inspector can carry out to determine if the organization is complying with a standard. For example, inspectors can make an inspection at anytime during regular business or daylight hours. They have the power to ask for anything or speak with anyone about anything that relates to the inspection. They may also ask someone who has expert knowledge on a topic (e.g., an architect) to help with and inspection.
It is an offence for anyone to try to prevent an inspection in accordance with a search warrant, refused to answer questions, provide false or misleading information, or deliberately not give information during the course of an inspection (Part IV, sections 18-20).
The AODA director may follow up with a person or organization that does not file a report or is not doing what the AODA requires it to do. The director may issue an order to a person or organization. The order may direct the person or organization to provide more information on its implementation of the standard or to file their report that the act requires. The director first sends a notice of the order.
The director may also issue an order requiring the payment of an administrative penalty period for example, this may occur if the person or organization has not or will not comply with the Act. The director sets the amount of administrative penalty. There is an opportunity for the person or organization to give a written explanation about why the director should not ask for this penalty. This must happen within 30 days of receiving the order. In some cases, the time limit to respond may be more than 30 days.
If the person or organization does not obey the order to pay the administrative penalty, the director may file the order with a local register of the Superior Court of justice. If this happens, it may be enforced as if it was an order of the court (Part V, sections 21-25).
There are fines for persons or organizations convicted of an offense under the AODA. The fines are up to $50,000 for each and every day or part day that an offence happens for a corporation, up to $100,000 for each and every day or part day defense happens. All directors and or officers of a corporation must take all reasonable care to prevent the corporation from committing an offense. Failure to do so is an offence. The directors and board officers of a corporation are liable to a fine of up to $50,000 for each and every day or part day that the offence happens (Part X, section 37)
The Condominium Authority of Ontario
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act AODA aims to remove barriers for people with disabilities. It applies to all entities in the province with one or more employees. The AODA requires these organizations, including landlords, to establish a minimum level of accessibility that people with disabilities can expect. These efforts include creating accessibility plans and policies; allowing access to service animals; allowing access to support person (for any areas open to the public); and providing accessible communications.
Other legislation comes into play when accommodating people with disabilities. You can find overall accessibility requirements for your buildings, including residential complexes, in the Ontario Building Code. Newer accessibility requirements (e.g. barrier free washrooms, automatic power door operators operators, visual fire alarms, etc.) apply to most new construction extensive renovations only. Under Ontario's Human Rights Code residents may make accommodation request. If they require physical alterations to the building, landlords are required to accommodate up to a point of undue hardship (e.g. costs are prohibitive).
Condominium Authority of Ontario https://www.condoauthority.ca/
Accessibility Act Government of Ontario https;//www.ontario.ca/page/accessibility-in-ontario
Building Code Government of Ontario https://www.ontario.ca/page/accessibility-ontarios-building-code
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities https://aoda/ca/
City of Toronto -Multi year Accessibility Plan
The Rick Hanson Foundation https://www.rickhansen.com/become-accessible
The Accessibility Consultants of Ontario https://www.acaontario.ca/ac100.php
SBS Group - "We Can Help"
Property Managers of Multi Residential Buildings, Condominiums, and Commercial Buildings are recommended to have a policy to periodically review their properties for accessibility by a consultant or architect.
We would be happy to provide you with prices for ramps, handrails, tactile indicators, and stair safety contrast strips based upon the consultants reports. Don't have a report not to worry we can certainly provide some general information to get you started in the right direction.
For a full list of services, information can be obtained at www.sbsinfo.ca