by: Graeme Macpherson | March 20, 2019
Staying on top of accessibility issues can be a challenging task. There are many factors to juggle and many important rights to balance against one another. On top of all of this are the obvious financial and logistical concerns that can accompany making a building accessible.
One worry that some corporations may have is, if they implement some sort of accessibility device or modification to one section of the building, must they then do this everywhere?
Take a ramp as an example. If you install one somewhere, must you make the rest of the building accessible?
The short answer to this question is, no.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act [“AODA”] is a piece of Ontario Legislation that aims to identify, remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. After it came into force , it helped spark the new accessibility requirements of the Ontario Building Code [“OBC”].
These new accessibility requirements for buildings are contained in section 3.8 of the Building Code. Amongst these requirements are barrier-free paths of travel.
According to section 220.127.116.11(1)(b) of the OBC, a barrier-free path of travel is required to and throughout all normally occupied floor areas and rooftop amenity spaces. Barrier-free paths of travel include ramps, passenger elevators, or other platform equipped passenger elevating devices, and stair lifts. What this means, is that according to the OBC, such paths of travel must be available to each and every regularly occupied area of a condominium.
This can cause some pause. Many buildings are not fully equipped with such systems. To implement them to every normally occupied floor area is likely not in the budget.
The OBC anticipates this, and as such, the requirements of section 3.8 do not have retroactive effect. In other words, existing buildings do not have to be fitted with the new accessibility features.
These new features are only statutorily required in new buildings or where an older building undergoes an “extensive renovation”, which is defined exhaustively at section 18.104.22.168. Without providing the comprehensive definition, these renovations include: removing the interior walls, ceilings or floors and replacing them with new ones: heavy duty stuff.
This is in contrast to “basic renovations” which are also defined in the OBC. A basic renovation is construction that is carried out to maintain an existing performance level of the building by using materials already inplace or using similar materials. The renovation must retain the existing character, structure, heritage value or appearance of the building.
Section 22.214.171.124 of the OBC goes on to clarify that these basic renovations are an exception to the requirement that buildings conform to all parts of the Code. Stated otherwise, a basic renovation does not trigger the need to comply with the OBC.
In any event, in most cases, a simple installation does not even qualify as a basic renovation. Accordingly, installing a ramp to one floor because one owner requires it, will not trigger the requirement to make the rest of the building accessible.
Of course, residents and occupants can always raise human rights concerns about accessibility, which must be dealt with accordingly on a case-by-case basis. However, there is no statutory obligation to install some sort of accessible throughout the entire building that is triggered by installing one in a single location.