The Ontario government has released draft amendments to the Integrated Accessibility Standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).  The public is invited to provide its comments on the draft amendments by October 1, 2012.

The draft amendments include relatively straightforward revisions / clarifications to the existing standards and, more importantly, offer a first glimpse at the “Built Environment Standard.”  The Built Environment Standard is the fifth and final standard to be released (albeit in draft form) under the AODA.  The proposed Built Environment Standard establishes requirements for public spaces in Ontario, including technical specifications, consultation with people with disabilities and other required accessible features. Accessibility requirements for buildings will be incorporated into the Ontario Building Code at a later, as of yet undisclosed, date. 

Will the Built Environment Standard Apply to your Organization?

  • The proposed Built Environment Standard will apply to:
  • The Ontario government The broader Ontario public sector (e.g. universities, hospitals, municipalities) and
  • Private and not-for-profit sector organizations in Ontario.

The Standard will govern new or redeveloped public spaces that occur after 2015 to 2018, depending on the nature and size of the organization.  “Redeveloped” is broadly defined to mean planned work on an element, structure or site that takes it beyond its original condition. Redevelopment is distinguished from maintenance work, such as painting or minor repairs, which aim to restore and / or keep elements, structures or sites in good working order. 

Key Requirements of the Proposed Built Environment Standard

The proposed Built Environment Standard covers seven areas relating to the design of public spaces:

  1. Exterior paths of travel (like sidewalks, ramps, stairs, curb ramps, rest areas and accessible pedestrian signals)
  2. Obtaining services (like fixed queuing lines and waiting areas)
  3. Accessible parking (on and off-street)
  4. Outdoor public-use eating areas (like rest stops or picnic areas)
  5. Recreational trails and beach access routes
  6. Outdoor play spaces (like playgrounds in provincial parks and local communities)

The requirements include, for example: meeting technical specifications for clear width / ramp slopes / etc.; meeting minimum requirements for availability of accessible features such as parking spaces and accessible service counters; and consulting with people with disabilities during the planning and design process.  The requirements for organizations that provide recreational facilities (play areas, beaches, trails, etc.) are particularly extensive and include numerous specifications related to signage, design and access.  

Organizations will also be required to take steps to ensure that accessibility-related equipment / features are properly maintained.  

Public Consultation

As with the other Standards under the AODA, the government is inviting feedback on the draft amendments.  Our experience in the previous rounds of consultation is that public feedback is taken seriously and has had a meaningful impact on the standards that ultimately come into force.  As a result, we encourage employers (or employer groups) to provide their comments on the Built Environment Standard.  Comments may be provided to until October 1, 2012.