In mid-August, the Ontario provincial government released proposed amendments to the AODA’s Integrated Accessibility Standard for a 45-day period of public consultation, which closed on October 1, 2012. The proposed amendments included additional defined terms and minor wording changes, as well as language to clarify the scope of certain obligations owed to persons with disabilities by selected service providers (libraries of educational and training institutions and transportation providers) and municipalities.

Most notably, the proposed amendments also included a draft of the Built Environment Standard, which will apply only to public spaces that are newly built or “redeveloped” (i.e. subject to significant or substantial changes).

The Built Environment Standard will apply to the Ontario government, designated public sector organizations, and private and not-for-profit organizations.  It distinguishes between “large organizations” (those with 50 or more employees in Ontario) and “small organizations” (those with less than 50 employees in Ontario), and applies only to large organizations unless otherwise noted.

The Built Environment Standard

The following is a highlight of the requirements of the draft Built Environment Standard, and is not intended to be a comprehensive summary. We encourage large and small organizations to seek further advice or to consult the draft legislation for particulars.

As mentioned above, the Built Environment Standard will apply to public spaces that are newly built or redeveloped after the compliance deadlines set out therein.  Although the term “public spaces” is not defined in the draft Standard, it does set out requirements for the following types of areas:

  • Recreational trails and beach access routes;
  • Outdoor public use eating areas (consisting of tables that are found in public areas such as in public parks, on hospital grounds and on university campuses);
  • Outdoor play spaces (areas that may contain play equipment or features designed to provide play opportunities and experiences for children and caregivers);
  • Exterior paths of travel, such as:
    • outdoor sidewalks or walkways designed for pedestrian travel that serve a functional rather than a recreational purpose
    • ramps, stairs, curb ramps, and depressed curbs
    • rest areas.
  • Parking facilities (both on-street and off-street parking); and
  • Areas where members of the public obtain services (such as service counters, fixed queuing areas, and waiting areas).

Requirements for exterior paths of travel, parking facilities, and areas for obtaining services will likely be applicable to private organizations. Particular requirements that may be of interest to private sector organizations include:

  • Firm, stable, slip-resistant surfaces for exterior paths of travel and ramps;
  • Width and head room clearance specifications for paths of travel;
  • Numerous specifications regarding slopes, ramps, and stairs (such as width requirements, handrails, slope ratios, and rise and run of steps);
  • Minimum requirements for accessible parking (although these requirements are not applicable to areas exclusively used for employees, buses, delivery vehicles, police and ambulance vehicles, or impounded vehicles);
  • Minimum requirements for numbers of accessible service counters, width of queuing guides, and accessible seating spaces in waiting areas.

The Built Environment Standard also sets requirements regarding maintenance of accessible elements in public spaces, and reporting requirements applicable not only to the government (annually) and designated public sector organizations (every two years), but also to large organizations (every three years).

We will continue to monitor the review of the Built Environment Standard, and provide updates as appropriate.