In the third review of the AODA, the Honourable David Onley recommends needed improvements to the Act. One of these improvements is the need for housing that is accessible for people with disabilities. Currently, there are no AODA standards that require houses and apartments to be accessible. Most housing developers do not think about the needs of people with disabilities when they build living spaces. Instead, they assume that everyone living in the spaces they design can use features like stairs and narrow doorways. As a result, there is a shortage of accessible housing. Therefore, Onley’s review recommends that the government should create an AODA standard for housing. In addition, the review recommends that the government create incentives for housing accessibility.
Incentives for Housing Accessibility
During the public meetings Onley held while preparing his review, attendees outline barriers they have encountered in inaccessible housing. For instance, some common barriers in houses and apartments are:
- Steps without ramps, elevators, or lifts
- Lack of automatic or push-button doors at apartment-building entrances
- Narrow entrances, doorways, or hallways
- No accessible Parking in apartment buildings or condominiums
- Bathrooms without room for people in wheelchairs to turn around
- Counters, cabinets, and other fixtures too high for people to access from their wheelchairs
For example, people sometimes live in houses where bathrooms are too small for their wheelchairs. As a result, they cannot use the bathrooms in their own homes independently. Furthermore, many people must live in these conditions for ten years or more, because of the accessible housing shortage. Although new houses and apartments are built every year, few of them are accessible. In addition, when houses are built accessibly, they are not always affordable. Therefore, Onley’s review recommends rules and incentives for housing accessibility.
Rules for Accessibility in New Housing
Onley’s review recommends that the barrier-free requirements of the Ontario Building Code should apply to living spaces. Moreover, review attendees suggest that a certain percentage of new living spaces should be accessible. For instance, in a new apartment building, a certain percentage of the apartments should be barrier-free. Likewise, a certain percentage of the houses in a subdivision should also be built without barriers. These requirements would ensure that people with accessibility needs have places to live that meet those needs. In addition, attendees suggest that living spaces should be built in ways that allow accessible features to be easily added later. For example, someone who gains a disability as they age may need an elevator in their home.
Furthermore, the review recommends tax deductions for the sale or land transfer of buildings or subdivisions offering accessible housing. These deductions will encourage developers to include accessible living spaces in new apartment buildings or subdivisions.
Incentives for Retrofitting Existing Housing
To meet the need of retrofitting existing houses for accessibility, Onley’s review recommends grants and tax incentives. For instance, the review mentions that twenty years ago, the government offered grants for people to add accessible features to their homes. This grant program allowed people to buy inaccessible houses and make the changes needed to live in them independently. Furthermore, older adults who gained disabilities could make their houses accessible and remain living in their homes. Therefore, the review recommends that the government should offer this home renovation program again. In addition, owners of rental properties should have access to similar funding to make their properties accessible to tenants with disabilities.