Wheelchair accessibility requirements including a broad range of other Barrier Free Accessibility requirements applicable to buildings are contained in the Ontario Building Code which is a provincial regulation. The Buildings Division within the Urban Development Services Department for the city of Toronto apply these requirements under the building permit process. The aforementioned regulation applies to all new buildings except houses, townhouses, boarding or rooming houses with fewer than 8 boarders or roomers, high hazard industrial buildings and buildings which are not occupied on a full time basis.
If major alterations are done in an existing building, the Barrier Free regulations apply only to those parts of the building where the alterations are being proposed. Retrofitting accessibility into an existing building where a new business may be situated, is only enforceable under our current Provincial legislation, where a new entrance is proposed or where the major alteration involves an existing entrance . This limitation in our authority possibly accounts for some of the difficulties which you have experienced with regard to access to buildings. Specifically, if accessibility at an existing entrance already exists then the current accessibility requirements as set out in the Ontario Building Code are applied throughout only the area being altered.
However, a new washroom could not be enforced if none was being proposed as part of the alteration assuming the occupant load remained unchanged. If a washroom was proposed to be built as part of the alteration then we do have authority to ensure that the washroom complies to all the accessibility dimensions and specifications. In regard to existing buildings, clause 184.108.40.206 states that the Code is applicable only to the design and construction of those parts of the building that are subject to the alteration therefore we are limited to enforcing those Barrier Free Accessibility requirements which are applicable to the work being proposed.
Currently there are two events occurring which may soon bring about regulatory changes to broaden the application of Barrier Free Accessibility and which would address the limitations previously mentioned.
First, The Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing, who administrate, establish regulations, accept public input & advise on the Ontario Building Code, have formed a Barrier Free Technical Advisory Committee to review the existing Accessibility requirements in preparation for the next version of the Ontario Building Code.
Secondly, in March 2002, The City of Toronto Advisory Committee on Disability Issues has submitted a brief to the Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing requesting obligatory building accessibility upgrades to be included in the Building Code. Furthermore, a set of draft design guidelines have already been prepared through that same committee. Accessibility, signage & way- finding within buildings and also on public thoroughfares are examples of the scope of the draft. The outcome of these initiatives will depend on the essential provincial legislation being in place.
The Toronto Reference library @ 416-393-7131 @ 789 Yonge St have in the 2 nd floor Annex, 2 copies of the Ontario Building Code including the Illustrated Guide for ramp construction & other accessibility features which are all requirements in section 3.8 of the Building Code. These books cannot be taken home so you may have to photocopy. Photocopying is .15 cents a copy and you must buy a 'photocopy card' on the main level first at the information desk. This building is wheelchair accessible and is listed in our "Places" section. (just watch out for the idiot that ties his big dog (part german sheppard) up on the railing at the disabled door - since this is a strange dog I was apprehensive of going near it but I just tugged lightly a bit on the lease at the railing end of it and he/she got up and moved over)
If you wish to purchase the above mentioned books, you can order by phoning 1 - 888 - 361-0003 or via web site "Order Online"
If you wish more information or wish to provide information regarding the Ontario Building Code, contact:
Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing
Housing Development & Buildings Branch
Code Development Unit
777 Bay Street, 2nd Floor
Attention; Bryan Kozman
For more information see "Toronto By-Laws - previous page"