Currently, no AODA standards require houses and apartments to be accessible. However, the Third Review of the AODA recommends the creation of standards mandating accessibility in housing. In this article, we will outline the benefits of retrofitting housing for accessibility. If AODA standards in housing provide guidelines for removing barriers in existing housing, Ontario citizens can live more independently.
Retrofitting Housing for Accessibility
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, most houses and apartments are full of accessibility barriers.
For instance, some of these 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
These barriers mean that people with disabilities may not be able to move independently through their own homes. Likewise, when people gain disabilities later in their lives, features of their own homes could become barriers. However, with guidelines and incentives for retrofitting housing, people could remove these barriers and regain their independence.
For example, a tenant who has developed arthritis may have difficulty turning the door knobs in their home. The landlord can easily solve this problem by installing door handles instead of knobs.
Alternatively, more extensive retrofits would be more costly to install. For instance, some retrofits people may need include:
- Ramps at entrances
- Widening doorways or hallways
- Automatic doors
- Making bathrooms accessible
- Visual fire alarms
Therefore, incentives for making these retrofits may be needed to ensure the success of possible AODA guidelines.
Incentives for Retrofitting Housing for Accessibility
The Third Review of the AODA recommends grants and tax incentives for the purpose of retrofitting existing houses for accessibility. 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.
AODA guidelines and incentives for retrofitting housing would help more people thrive in their homes and care for their families.