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    Chamber Encourages Business To Comment On Proposed Accessibility Rules

    Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada to develop province-wide, enforceable accessibility standards. The proposed accessible built environment standard is the fifth standard to be released for public review. The provincial government’s proposed rules governing how businesses and organizations in Ontario prevent and remove barriers for people with disabilities, in their physical surroundings, are now available for comment. The government’s Accessibility Standards Committee for the Built Environment (of which the Ontario Chamber of Commerce is a member) has drafted the rules which are available online for public review until October 16, at the website listed at the end of this article.

    The government has appointed former Liberal Cabinet Minister Charles Beer to conduct a mandatory independent review of the entire Act.  Beer is organizing province wide consultations, which will help inform his report to the government of Ontario. Consultation sessions will be held in Sudbury (Oct. 1), Ottawa (Oct 6), Toronto (Oct 14) and London (Oct 20), and Chambers/Boards and their members are encouraged to attend these sessions in person and/or send in written submissions. 

    Consultations are also being conducted across the province. The committee will use the feedback received during the review period to shape the final proposed standard before submitting it to the government to consider for adoption as a law.

    The committee’s proposed standard will affect all new construction and extensive renovations and proposes requirements for every aspect including:    

    • ·         Common access — entrances, doorways, ramps, stairs
    • ·         Exteriors — curbs, crossings, street furniture
    • ·         Plumbing — washrooms, showers, drinking fountains
    • ·         Communication — signage, telephones
    • ·         Buildings — air quality, acoustics, lighting

    The committee has proposed the following timelines: new construction to follow the standard within 12 months of it coming into force and substantial renovation to follow the standard 12 to 36 months of it coming into force.

    It is important to note that the government does not plan to impose requirements for retrofitting existing buildings at this time. Also, the government does not intend to require existing or new single family houses accessible at this time.

    All businesses are encouraged to review the draft standards and to provide comments to the government no later than October 16, 2009. If you require an alternate format or method to provide your feedback, please contact: Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, Outreach and Compliance Branch, Ministry of Community and Social Services, 777 Bay Street, Suite 601, Toronto ON  M7A 2J4, by e-mail at publicreview@ontario.ca; by phone at 1-888-482-4317 or fax at 416-326-9725.

    Key Background Facts:

    Ontario passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005, becoming the first jurisdiction in Canada to legally commit to breaking down barriers by 2025. These accessibility standards are the rules that businesses and organizations in Ontario must follow to identify, prevent and remove barriers for people with disabilities

    Ontario is developing accessibility standards in areas such as:

    • ·         customer service, which came into force January 1, 2008
    • ·         transportation, which was submitted to the government for consideration
    • ·         information and communications, which was submitted to the government for
                consideration
    • ·         employment, which is being finalized following public review that ended in May 2009
    • ·         built environment — proposed draft is available for public review until Oct. 16, 2009.

    For more information and comment forms for the draft Built Environment Standards visit www.mcss.gov.on.ca/mcss/english/pillars/accessibilityOntario/accesson/business/environment/

    For more information on how to participate, or on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, please go to www.mcss.gov.on.ca/mcss/english/pillars/accessibilityOntario/accesson/participate