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Assessing Building Accessibility

Under the AODA, private or non-profit businesses with twenty to forty-nine (20-49) workers, or fifty (50) or more workers, must complete accessibility reports every three years. As a result, businesses regularly assess their compliance with the five AODA standards:

In addition, businesses should also assess how well they follow the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code (the Code). Businesses are not required to assess their compliance with the Code. Nonetheless, businesses can benefit from finding out how accessible their buildings are. Moreover, they can use this knowledge to plan improvements that would allow more people to access their spaces and services.

Assessing Building Accessibility

Under the Ontario Building Code, all new and redeveloped buildings open to the public must follow accessibility standards. These standards include:

  • Ramps, lifts or elevators whenever there are stairs
  • Automatic doors and wide doorways at entrances to buildings and common areas
  • Lighting
  • Accessible public washrooms
  • Barrier-free paths of travel into and through buildings
  • Accessible seating and auditoriums
  • Visual fire alarms in auditoriums and hallways

How to Assess Building Accessibility

Businesses can start to assess building accessibility by requesting anonymous feedback from customers, workers, or other visitors who have needed accessible features. For instance, visitors can explain whether:

  • They could reach building entrances and open doors
  • There were barrier-free paths to parts of the building they needed to visit
  • Ramps were easy to navigate while using assistive devices

Similarly, customers, workers, and visitors could explain whether they could:

  • Travel within aisles or paths that:
  • Use a washroom on site
  • Read signs or elevator buttons
  • Enjoy events in auditoriums, through:
    • Accessible seating
    • Assistive listening devices

Accessing Older Buildings

Alternatively, if a business does not have accessible features, visitors with disabilities must still be able to access their services. Therefore, visitors could also give feedback about how well staff supported their access needs. For example, visitors can explain whether staff:

  • Knew what accessible features their premises had, or did not have
  • Invited them to receive service in an accessible place
  • Retrieved items, when aisles or shelves were not accessible
  • Helped them navigate, if signs or elevator buttons were not accessible
  • Served them remotely if entrances or hallways were not accessible
  • Pointed out nearby locations with accessible washrooms

If customers or other visitors have the option to describe their positive or negative encounters with staff, these stories can help staff recognize what they should or should not do when supporting visitors’ access to their spaces. If much of the feedback a business receives is negative, it is likely that the business is not compliant with the Code. As a result, the business will need to make changes, which could include:

  • Making sure that any plans for new or renovated spaces include accessible features
  • Improving their AODA training, to ensure that staff know how to meet visitors’ needs

Accessibility Consulting

In addition, businesses could enter short-term or on-going contracts to consult with people who have disabilities. Alternatively, companies could request the services of professional organizations that specialize in assessing accessibility. In either case, an accessibility assessor with lived experience of disability could:

  • Observe and give feedback on the quality of AODA training
  • Assess any plans for new or renovated spaces, to ensure that accessible features are included

Finally, if any of these plans or processes do not comply with AODA requirements, consultants could offer suggestions or assistance. Moreover, consultants could also help companies find resources to support them in strengthening their policies and services.