Preparing Your Office for the New Accessibility Act:

Preparing Your Office for the New Accessibility Act:

 

Contact MDG’s Principal,
Lynn McGregor for more on
Accessibility and Design

February 5th, 2013
by Lynn McGregor

 

 

 

As everyone in Ontario knows by now, our province is on a noble and appropriate quest to make Ontario a much more accessible province for all of us - including anyone who is either temporarily or permanently disabled.  And they have set a deadline of 2025.

 

The “Accessibility of Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005" (AODA), became law on June 13, 2005; and its purpose is to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to five key areas of daily living. Specifically:

  1. Accessible Customer Service,
  2. Information and Communications,
  3. Employment,
  4. Transportation, and
  5. The Built Environment (including buildings and Public Spaces).
     

Happily, Ontario now has standards in place for the first four of these key areas, but is still working on the development of standards for the Built Environment. The objective of these proposed changes is to provide equal dignity and democratic mobility to all citizens. It should no longer be considered good enough to provide access at a back door, by the dumpsters, for someone in a wheelchair. The goal is to ensure that a handicapped individual can enter and experience a space, the same way an able bodied individual can. To their credit, the province has spent considerable time on consultations with stakeholder groups, including those representing the disabled, builders, developers, designers and owners of property; in a quest to get a good balance between accessible improvement, and the impact of those changes on others, (fiscal, logistical, etc.)

 

As a member of Ontario’s “Building Advisory Council”, and as a participant in ARIDO’s “Building Code Committee”, asked to review these proposed changes for viability - we have the good fortune of being able to prepare our clients for what is likely coming in the future to ensure their office space decisions anticipate the new laws, and are designed to retain their currency.  

 

If you have been charged with an office relocation, expansion or renovation - you may want to consider the following list of proposed Building Codes Changes, even before they are approved - to ensure that your facility is as leading edge, supportive and appropriate as possible. And that you are not always playing the expensive game of “catch-up”.

 

The following are a few of the changes being considered by the Province of Ontario:

  1. Travel Corridors may well be Wider:

A wheel chair’s turning radius is typically thought to be 5'. And typical office corridors are currently five feet, “on centre”. This means that they are actually less than 5'-0" wide. Currently, if a wheelchair needs to turn in one of these corridors, they often scrape the sides of the partitions. Corridor widths will be increasing, and areas along the corridor length to allow for passing and resting of those with assisting devices, will be increasing.

  1. Minimum Door Widths will likely Increase:

Minimum widths will increase to allow anyone with a wheelchair, or similar assisting device, to enter.

  1. Turning Radius of Wheelchairs will likely Increase:

That 5' radius will likely be considered to be a larger dimension, which will need to be respected in all areas, including washroom stalls.  This is a very important and overdue change that will allow the handicapped to enter stalls with their support devices, (such as walkers, crutches, etc.).

  1. Handicapped Washrooms will likely require Assistance Alarms:

            So if someone does fall - they have the ability to call for assistance.

  1. Stairs May be Easier to Negotiate:

Steps will be deeper, and the vertical space between steps will be smaller, making it easer for weakened legs to use them. Handrails will be required on both sides of the stairs, to ensure support is where anyone would need it. This means that stairs will take up more space that they currently need to, by law.

  1. Ramp Inclines may be mandated to be more Gentle:

Instead of a 1:10 ratio, a 1:15 is being considered - meaning that ramps will be longer and more space will need to be devoted to them.

  1. When Renovating- the suggestion is to Go Barrier Free:

There is a recommendation that when renovations are done, that barrier free elements be included, (unless there are special exemptions).

  1. Visual Fire Alarms are being Considered:

As the deaf cannot hear an audible fire alarm; visual alarms (possible flashing lights) are being considered. As strobing lights can inspire seizures in some people - the benefit of this suggestion is being considered carefully.

 

The net impact of the proposed changes appears on the surface to be that requirements will take more space to accommodate, than they did before.

But if offices are professionally designed to allow spaces to assume more than one function, (i.e.: multi-purpose area), it could offset the space impact considerably.

 

We know that some individuals in the building industry have been concerned about the Accessibility Act - and what the changes mandated will mean to their worlds and businesses. Some resistance is due to the feeling that changes to the current building code could add cost to facility projects. But we can’t lose perspective.  It is important to note that many of the proposed changes to the Ontario Building Code are already law in other areas of our world.  If Ontario is to be a more accessible province by 2025, all citizens need to embrace change at a more rapid rate that we have done in the past.

 

If you would like more information on, or assistance with, improving accessibility in your office environment, it would be a good idea to contact an experienced, registered ARIDO Interior Designer, who has their BCIN number.  Executing a bit of due diligence now, could save you a lot in the future.

 

Contact us for more information on Accessibility and Design or if you would like an electronic copy of this article.