What Does An Accessible Condo Look Like

Tuesday Nov 12th, 2019


Every resident has a right to accessible housing, which is why it’s the responsibility of condo corporations to ensure their building is accessible for all residents, including seniors, people who use wheelchairs and those with mobility, visual and dexterity/strength impairments. Accessibility requirements for buildings are set by provincial building codes-which are based on the National Building Code – and are aimed at preventing barriers for people with disabilities. Buildings that are required to meet these standards must be designed in such a way that allows people with disabilities to reasonably access the building, move around inside, and use the building facilities.

What are some of the accessibility requirements?

There are a number of ways to achieve better accessibility within a condo. For example, Ontario requires all new condos or buildings undergo extensive renovations to have a barrier – free paths of travel, access to all storeys within the building, visual fire alarms, power door operators, and barrier – free washrooms in common areas. However, existing buildings do not have to be updated with these accessibility features.

Depending upon the province, some other design requirements might include having parking spots close to an accessible entrance, and signage that helps direct people with disabilities to the entrance. Intercom systems might also need to be set lower for easier access.  

Are there any other ways condos can be more accessible?

For people who are able to move freely without restriction, it’s difficult to fathom how even the smallest things can quickly become a barrier. For instance, round doorknobs can be difficult for people who are not able to grasp and twist with their hands due to dexterity limitations. That’s why the National Building Code requires all hardware on doors to be more usable, like lever-type door handles.

Ramps allow people to gain access to a building or a floor. However, they need to have edge protection and should not have thick carpeting, as it will be more difficult for wheelchair users to navigate.

Controls like light switches, thermostats, and outlets need to be placed in areas where everyone can reach them. They also need to be designed so that anyone can operate it with just a closed fist and very little force. 

“Any person who needs assistance has the right to demand that their condo corporation make an accommodation”

When it comes to bathrooms that have a wheel-in shower, multiple grab bars are needed, no curtains or shower doors should obstruct the controls, and a longer hose is required for hand-held shower heads.

What can you do if you spot an accessibility issue in your building?

Any person who needs assistance has the right to demand that their condo corporation make an accommodation, whether it’s installing an automatic door or moving their parking space closer to the entrance, the corporation may not always be able to meet every request, particularly if it’s a change that will cause risk to the safety of other residents or will cost an exorbitant amount of money. However, corporations do have a legal requirement to make accommodations to the best of their abilities. If you’re a condo owner who believes that your accommodation request is being ignored or turned down for insufficient reasons, then you could file a complaint to a human tribunal.

This information should not be relied on as legal advice, financial advice or a definitive statement of the law in any jurisdiction. For such advice, please consult your own legal counsel or financial representative.  

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