“Handicap” accessibility – the name we have heard for years has changed and so did the rules. The proper term is now “Barrier-Free” Accessibly. The name changed to reflect all forms of accessibility limitation. So what are the proper rules, by-laws and requirements in Ontario today?

Government of Ontario states:

“Businesses and organizations are required to accommodate employees with disabilities throughout their employment.”

“Accommodating the individual needs of people with disabilities is a legal duty under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This enables people to benefit equally and take part fully in the workplace and all parts of life.”

How about buildings that do not employ any person with accessibility concerns but such a person may wish to access the building and/or use it’s facilities, either on a public basis (restaurants, stores, offices, etc.) or as a resident (rental buildings, condos, hotels, etc.)? In these cases there is another law that applies to new construction or renovations, the Ontario Building Code Act. (OBC).  The OBC states:

“Accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code only apply to new construction or major renovation. Principal authorities, including municipalities, are responsible for enforcing the Ontario Building Code. This includes reviewing building plans, issuing permits and conducting construction inspections.”

What this means to you? Well, all the newly constructed buildings and older buildings performing major renovations including but not limited to; New Tenant Fit Out, Change of Use, or Interior Renovation that includes washrooms or Access to the building, applying for “building permit” will be required to design or bring the building up to code. Which depending on the use of the space may include providing barrier free accessible access to the building or unit, and installing either a Barrier-free access washroom or providing barrier free access within a larger washroom.