New regulations that came into effect on January 1, 2015 have amended the Ontario Building Code to substantially increase the requirements to make buildings accessible to the disabled.
The new requirements apply to most new construction and to buildings undergoing extensive renovations. Houses are not affected, with the exception of requirements for visual smoke alarms.
Following are some highlights of the changes.
– Elevators have to be provided between all floors in most new buildings. The buildings include assembly buildings (theatres, community centres, places of worship), care buildings (such as long-term care homes), and commercial/retail buildings (supermarkets and shops). Residential and office buildings that are over three storeys or 600 square metres have the same requirement. There are some exceptions such as for small group homes and restaurants with second and third floors.
– The range of areas where visual fire alarms are required is expanded to include public corridors of all residential buildings and all barrier-free washrooms.
– Smoke alarms have to be provided on every floor and in every sleeping room of residential buildings, including all houses. All these alarms have to include a visual component conforming to National Fire Protection Association standards.
– Power door operators are to be provided at entry doors and vestibules of most buildings. They also have to be provided at doors to amenity rooms such as party rooms. Doorway and hall widths have been expanded, and curb ramp dimensions have changed. There are also new requirements for tactile walking surface indicators at the top of stairs and platform edges.
– Multi-unit residential buildings now have to provide 15% of their suites with basic accessibility features.
– In public assembly buildings there are new requirements for adaptable seating spaces suitable for a side transfer from a wheelchair, as well as for adjacent companion seating and for storage spaces for wheelchairs.
– Whereas accessibility requirements previously only applied to extensive renovations in suites over 300 square metres and on a main floor a floor with elevator access, now basic accessibility features must be included in extensive renovations in smaller suites and suites that are not fully accessible. For example, they must have lever door handles, barrier free doorways and ambulatory washroom stalls.
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