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Reforming the Management of Public Building Projects in Ontario

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 more accessibility and fewer barriers in public infrastructure projects. Onley’s review recommends changes to Infrastructure Ontario, the government agency that manages the province’s major building and construction projects. The review states that this agency has the chance to improve accessibility across Ontario by ensuring that there are no barriers in public buildings. Therefore, Onley’s review recommends reforming the management of public building projects in Ontario.

Reforming the Management of Public Building Projects in Ontario

Onley’s review states that many public buildings in Ontario are not accessible. Instead, some of these buildings are full of physical, information, and technological barriers, including:

  • Lack of elevators
  • No ramps or railings
  • Weak colour contrast
  • Incorrect Braille on signs
  • Self-service kiosks without accessibility features

When the province constructs a building or space, every person in Ontario should be able to use it. People with disabilities are members of the public. As a result, they should have access to the spaces that the province has constructed for public use.

Therefore, Onley’s review recommends that Infrastructure Ontario must take people’s accessibility needs into account when choosing designs for buildings and other public spaces. Thinking about accessibility at the design stage often saves time and money later, because retrofits are more costly and time-consuming than accessibility from the start. Therefore, Onley’s review recommends that Infrastructure Ontario should ensure that all the project plans it approves include accessibility requirements. Moreover, if a building design does not include features that remove barriers, Infrastructure Ontario should reject that design. In addition, if a company submits many building designs containing barriers, Infrastructure Ontario should ban that company from submitting designs. The review states that this ban should be temporary, so that companies can resubmit once they learn how to design accessible buildings.

More Solutions

During the public meetings Onley held while preparing his review, attendees suggest more solutions to avoid creating building barriers. For instance, some attendees suggest creating a process to monitor the plans for public buildings. This review process would ensure that every public building would be designed with accessibility features. In addition, if reviewers noticed any barriers in a building’s design, they could help the designers remove them. Similarly, attendees suggest that the provincial auditor should recommend improvements to Infrastructure Ontario’s process of planning for accessibility.

Furthermore, attendees suggest that when reviewers recommend accessibility improvements, these recommendations should be made public. Likewise, if anyone involved in the design process rejects an accessibility recommendation, this rejection should also be made public. For instance, attendees suggest that this public record should include:

  • The name of the person who rejects a recommendation
  • The person’s reasons for rejecting the recommendation

Attendees also recommend inspections after projects are completed. Moreover, attendees suggest that if inspectors find barriers, the builders must be required to remove them.

All these recommendations will help the government work together in reforming the management of public building projects in Ontario. All buildings and services created for public use should be accessible to members of the public who have disabilities.