By Jonathan Juha, Postmedia News
Friday, October 27, 2017
Future city-owned buildings and facilities are a step closer to become a bit more accessible for people with disabilities.
Pending formal approval from council, the city’s planning and heritage sub-committee voted unanimously on Thursday in favor of approving new accessibility guidelines, which will regulate how new city facilities are built, as well as any renovation projects done to properties currently owned by the city.
The city has been working on the document, last updated in 2004, for the last two years.
Since last reviewed, the province has made some adjustments to its own accessibility act and has included a number of requirements cities and municipalities have to follow, explained Derek Pigozzo, the city’s chief building official.
“The existing guidelines are actually quite thorough,” he said. “If you look at the table of content from our existing document and the document we are going to be adopting, there are only approximately eight new sections.
“But this new document now falls in line with all provincial standards.”
Some of the new sections include guidelines regulating city-owned places that include eating areas run by third-party businesses; pool facilities, which would have to be designed in such a way to allow easy access to everyone to swimming and therapeutic pools; and schools, emergency services stations and public historic places, among others.
While the city plans to encourage private developers to follow these new guidelines, the regulations are only mandatory to city-owned facilities and not private projects, which will continue to be regulated by Ontario’s building code, Pigozzo said.
“The building code has its own accessibility requirements and regulations . . . and these will continue to be enforced,” he said.
Similar documents created by London and Guelph were used as the basis for the Stratford guidelines, with some minor changes coming from the city’s accessibility advisory committee.
One of the main suggestions coming from the group related to the use of a new “dynamic symbol of access” to mark accessible parking spots across the city.
The updated design, created by a team of accessibility designers in New York City, still shows a person in a wheelchair, but it gives the impression that the person is moving forward.
“This is changing that view of what that symbol looks like and means. Instead of a stagnant individual, it is a person in motion, which is very positive,” Pigozzo added.