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Ontario Government's
New ODA Bill 125
posted March 1, 2002


February 27, 2002



The following is the text (about nine pages) of the ODA Committee's brief to the Ontario Government on its public consultation concerned with reform to the disability access provisions of the Ontario Building Code. Written submissions can be sent in by anyone to the Ontario Government until March 1, 2002. All are again encouraged to participate in this.

In this brief,the ODA Committee repeats the core message and recommendations that it has presented to the Ontario Government in connection with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This brief focuses specifically on those barriers which the Building Code can address, namely barriers to access to buildings and properties.

As always, we welcome your feedback.


to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Public Consultation on Accessibility Development and Buildings Branch Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
777 Bay Street, 2nd Floor
Toronto, Ontario M5G 2E5
Email: codes@gov.on.ca

(Submitted by Email)

February 27, 2002


The ODA Committee is a province-wide, grassroots, voluntary, non-partisan
coalition of individuals and over 100 community
organizations organized in 23 regions of Ontario. Founded in late 1994, we have
united to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities
through the prompt passage of a strong, effective Ontarians with Disabilities
Act. We include over 100 organizational members and many individual members,
both with and without disabilities. We have extensive experience and expertise
with the wide range of disabilities. Through our volunteer efforts we have
brought our message to the Ontario Government, the
opposition parties, the public and the media. Our activities are amply
documented on our website whose address is listed above.


For over seven years the ODA Committee has led the charge to achieve a
barrier-free Ontario for persons with disabilities through the enactment of
strong and effective new provincial legislation. Your review of the Ontario
Building Code's disability accessibility provisions addresses directly a range
of some of the barriers which we had addressed in connection with the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act, namely barriers to access to buildings and properties.
To the extent that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, passed by the
Legislature last December, may not sufficiently and effectively address those
barriers, and to the extent that they could be addressed within the potential
purview of the Ontario Building Code, we have a direct and strong interest in
such legislation.


During the Harris Government's first term, your Ministry circulated an earlier
discussion paper on the building Code which was about going back to basics. It
proposed, among other things, that the Government consider cutting back on the
disability access
provisions of the Building Code. At that time, the ODA Committee, among others,
went public to object to that counterproductive proposal being placed on the
table for discussion. It was a potentially huge step backwards.

As a result of the various objections from various corners
including ours, the Government withdrew that proposal at that time. We are
appreciative that your new Consultation Paper assures as follows: "The
government also commits that no existing disabled access requirements in the
Building Code will be reduced."

We appreciate that the Government is now at last undertaking a review of the
Building Code's accessibility provisions. We also appreciate that your
Consultation Paper echoes a number of
important themes which the ODA Committee has emphasized since we were formed in

People with disabilities have been waiting a long time for this Building Code
review. It was promised over three years ago. That commitment was given when
then Citizenship Minister Isabel Basset introduced Bill 83 into the Ontario
Legislature, the Government's 3 page initial draft Ontarians with Disabilities
Act, since withdrawn. Minister Basset gave the following commitment on behalf
of the Government in the Legislature on November 23, 1998:

"And the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will consult with
organizations representing persons with disabilities,
municipalities, as well as the home-building and development industries, to
identify priorities for improving barrier-free design standards in the Ontario
Building Code."


The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, enacted last fall, did not
incorporate many of the important recommendations that we and many others made
to the Ontario Government in connection with that legislation. Many of those
recommendations are relevant to the removal and prevention of barriers to full
accessibility to buildings and properties.

Because of the limited time available to make submissions to your consultation,
we propose to re-submit to you the main briefs that the ODA Committee has
presented to the Ontario Government in connection with the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act. We urge you to review these and to implement any and all
recommendations to the extent that they can apply to access to buildings and

We will forward to you in separate emails the following materials:

1. The 11 principles for the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which the Ontario
Legislature unanimously adopted by resolution on October 29, 1998. We recommend
that any amendments to the Building Code fully implement those principles to
the extent that they relate to accessibility of buildings and properties.

All ODA Committee members endorse these principles. In addition to their
unanimous adoption by the Legislature, they have been adopted by resolution by
a good number of municipal councils around Ontario. These resolutions are
posted on our website at:

2. The ODA Committee's 1998 Brief to the Ontario Legislature on the ODA. It
includes a blueprint for the ODA, on which you can draw in devising building
Code amendments. It also includes an extensive catalogue in Appendix 1 of many
barriers facing persons with disabilities that we have heard about from our
members. These barriers include barriers to access to buildings and properties
which the Building Code could and should address;

3. The ODA Committee's 2001 Brief to the Standing Committee of the Ontario
Legislature on Finance and Economic Affairs on Bill 125, the proposed Ontarians
with Disabilities Act. Our analysis of Bill 125 as initially drafted and our
recommendations for amendments included in that brief and its appendices can
inform your review of the Building code. To the extent that they can be used to
address barriers to access to buildings and properties, we recommend them to
you. You can find the text of the original Bill 125 on our website, along with
a great deal of background material.

4. We also submit for your consideration all of the oral
presentations made on Bill 125 to the Standing Committee on Finance and
Economic Affairs made by various individuals and organizations. In so doing, we
do not purport to endorse all of these. However, we believe it is very
important for you to take them into account. Individuals and organizations
across Ontario put an extraordinary effort into bringing their views to the
attention of the Standing Committee. despite the lack of sufficient notice of
these hearings to enable persons with disabilities to fully participate in

Instead of emailing these transcripts to you, you can review the transcript of
all of the oral presentations to the Standing Committee by visiting the ODA
Committee's website. To see all the transcripts of the public hearings on the
ODA bill, go to:


Nov. 29, 2001 - Procedural Issues

November 30, 2001 - Ottawa hearings

December 3, 2001 - Windsor hearings

December 4, 2001 - Toronto hearings

December 5, 2001 - Toronto hearings

December 6, 2001 - Thunder Bay hearings

December 7, 2001 - Sudbury hearings

December 11, 2001 - Clause-By-Clause Debate and Votes on Amendments

To read the entire presentation made on behalf of the ODA Committee in Toronto, visit:

5. You should also review and take into account the written briefs which were
submitted to that Standing Committee, to the extent that their contents apply
to barriers to access to buildings and properties. To assist you with this, we
will email to you in two large messages all of the briefs that the Standing
Committee received in electronic form on Bill 125. The Standing Committee's
clerk was kind enough to provide these to us in electronic form. We also ask
you to review the briefs which the Standing Committee received in hard copy
form only. To obtain these, please contact:

Ms Susan Sourial Clerk of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic
Affairs Standing Committees Branch Room 1405, Whitney Block Queen's Park
Toronto ON M7A 1A2 Tel: (416) 325-7352

The Standing Committee's staff prepared a very helpful 75-page analysis of all
the recommendations that the Standing Committee received. We recommend that you
review this. You can obtain it from Ms. Sourial or download it from our


Without limiting the full range of information and recommendations included in
our briefs and other materials that we are sending to you, we particularly
bring to your attention these important themes in our own recommendations:

(a) Consultation Process

We recommend that you convene public hearings, public forums or public
round-table discussions to further address barriers to access to buildings and
properties. The avenue of written
submissions that you have provided, while helpful, itself imposes barriers in
the path of those who cannot used the written medium. It does not provide a
chance for all stake-holders, including persons with disabilities, to exchange
ideas face-to-face, and find common ground. Moreover, this Building Code review
was not
sufficiently publicized. We fear that many who are interested in this topic may
not have had the chance to participate. For our part, we have tried to
publicize this consultation process via our Email list and website. We
recommend that any consultations be open, accessible and barrier-free.

In this regard we bring to your attention certain statements made on behalf of
the Ontario Government during the debates over Bill 125, the proposed Ontarians
with Disabilities Act, last fall. Those statements should apply equally to your
Government's review of the Ontario Building Code.

During Second Reading Debate on Bill 125, Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson
stated: "The most valuable lesson I learned was how powerful change could occur
if the disabilities community was front and centre, was listened to, was asked
for their input and it was acknowledged and acted upon. It sounds simple, but
you'd be amazed how many communities don't even consider doing it." (Hansard
November 8, 2001)

Along the same lines, Conservative MPP Frank Mazzilli said this on the second
day of that Second Reading Debate: "There are always issues when there's new
construction, something that's overlooked, and I've got to tell you when
something is overlooked it's
embarrassing. It's embarrassing for the designers and it's
embarrassing for the municipal and provincial governments that may have
provided the funding to build those structures that something in the design
stage was overlooked. Why was it overlooked? It was overlooked exactly because
the disability community was not at the table overseeing the original design;
something that they would have noticed right away and said, "This doesn't
work." This second-floor issue, this elevator, the height of these buttons, all
of those issues that became embarrassing to people were things that, had the
input been there right from the start, would not have occurred.

The other thing is that having the disability community at the table
overlooking everything at first will actually be cost-effective, because, as
I've said, on some embarrassing issues it's not an issue of money; they've
obviously been overlooked. You end up going back and redoing things. We all
know that in construction when you have to go back and redo something that was
done two weeks ago, that is brand new, you're effectively being inefficient and
wasting taxpayers' money. The disabled community being at the table making
those recommendations right from the start will in fact save taxpayers' money."
(Hansard November 19, 2001)

Similarly, the Citizenship Minister said during the debate over his time
allocation motion regarding Bill 125: "It is my firm belief that any policy or
law will work much better when the very people it affects are directly involved
and are working with it on a daily basis. Persons with disabilities understand
the barriers that they are struggling with and confront on a daily basis. Their
knowledge and their experience is the single most important contribution to our
understanding of these necessary reforms." (Hansard November 21, 2001)

During that same debate, Conservative MPP Diane Cunningham stated: "Disabled
people want to be involved in decisions regarding themselves. ...Giving persons
with disabilities a role to play in decision-making that affects them is
extremely important. It's a powerful tool, it's a tool for change and it's long
overdue. ... People should be at the table with regard to actions that regard
them." (Hansard, November 21, 2001)

Similarly, Citizenship Minister Jackson stated during Second Reading Debate on
Bill 125, in terms that apply identically here: "We need the disabilities
community to come to the table and say, "These are the standards. These are the
barriers we face every day." I don't face them. Why would I, as minister, sit
there and say, "That sounds reasonable to me. A 36-inch-wide door? I guess that
sounds fine." What's the difference between that and a 32-inch door? Don't say
four inches. The difference is that you won't be able to manoeuvre a wheelchair
or a mobile scooter or whatever." (November 8, 2001)

In affording the disability community input into standards to be set, the ODA
Committee believes that there must be a real and meaningful avenue for all to
have their say, not just a chosen few. On this theme, Citizenship Minister
Jackson made a statement echoing this during Second reading debate regarding
Bill 25 which applies equally to the Ontario Building Code: "The disabilities
community has many members who deserve a voice. There are many people in the
disabilities community who deserve a voice on these issues. One person alone
cannot represent the entire disabilities community. There are many voices, many
needs and many unique challenges facing a broad range of citizens of all ages
who are challenged by their disabilities." (Hansard November 8, 2001)

(b) Examine Building Codes in Other Jurisdictions

As part of this consultation process, it would be very helpful if you could
collect together disability access provisions from other jurisdictions,
including those in effect in the US, Australia and elsewhere. If you release
these along with an analysis of these, the public including persons with
disabilities could give input on the options that you have brought together.

(c) Goal of Building Code Disability Provisions Should Explicitly Be
Achievement of Barrier-Free Province

The Building Code should provide that the goal of its disability access
provisions is the achievement of a barrier-free Ontario. All reforms to these
provisions should be aimed at effectively
achieving this goal in relation to access to buildings and

Our recommendation draws upon the Ontario Government's major commitment to
persons with disabilities in its November 1, 2001 "Vision Statement" and in
other statements made by the Government in connection with the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act.

The government's November 1, 2001 "Vision Statement" states: "We will move
steadily towards a province in which no new barriers to persons with
disabilities are created and existing ones are removed." The Government's
"Independence and Opportunity" Framework for Change policy statement on
November 5, 2001 states: "We envision an Ontario where persons with
disabilities can experience the same fullness of opportunity as all Ontarians.
We envision an Ontario where persons with disabilities can get into and around
their community safely; attend and participate in a town council meeting; get
to a job that nurtures their skills; and live as independently as possible."
For the ODA Committee's part, we would speak of living independently, not
merely living "as independently as possible."

Along the same lines, Citizenship Minister Jackson stated during the Second
Reading debate: "When I talked to these individuals and listened to what they
wanted to see happen in our province, it occurred to me that we really share
the same vision and the same goals, and we know we can get to the same
outcomes. Simply put, they wanted legislation that would do two things: create
no new barriers in our province and have a plan whereby we would be able to
systematically go back and remove all the existing barriers in our province.
Those very simply were the two things they said we needed to have in this
legislation." (Hansard November 8, 2001) Similarly, on the third day of Second
Reading Debate, Conservative MPP Julia Munro stated: "No one can quarrel with
the goal: an Ontario in which no new barriers to persons with disabilities are
created, and where existing ones are removed. That's where we're headed."
(Hansard November 20, 2001)

(d) Apply Code to All Disabilities and All Barriers to Access to Buildings and

The Building Code's disability access provisions should be expanded to address
removal and prevention of all barriers to access to buildings and properties by
persons with all kinds of disabilities, be the disability physical, mental or
sensory, be the disability visible or invisible. The Code should address all
barriers to access to such properties, and not be limited to physical barriers

(e) Address Mandatory Barrier Removal as Well as Barrier Prevention

In addition to prevention of future barriers in new construction, the Building
Code should be expanded to provide for a gradual, mandatory process for the
removal of existing barriers to access to buildings and properties along
reasonable time lines, consistent with reasonable available resources. This
should apply to buildings and properties in all sectors which are open to the
public, not just those in the public sector.
Removal of existing barriers should not necessarily depend on the undertaking
of renovations. For example, there is no reason why an existing building that
has an elevator should not have Braille markings added to its elevator buttons
along reasonable time lines, whether or not the building is renovated. Another
simple, obvious example of a readily removal barrier, which the ODA Committee
believes need not await renovations, was referred to by
Conservative MPP toby Barrett during the first day of Second Reading debate in
the Legislature on Bill 125 on November 8, 2001, when he stated:

"I think of the example of the step in front of so many stores and commercial
establishments. In the first place, usually, through design a step like that
need not be built. By and large, it's fairly simple to take out a concrete step
and redesign the doorway. You have an accessible commercial establishment and
the proprietors of that store have access to a new cadre of customers."

Along these lines, the Ontario Government's "Framework for Change" document

"More than 20,000 retail businesses in Ontario can, for a modest cost, remove a
front step - a barrier that persons with
disabilities, mothers with strollers and seniors encounter every day. This
small measure, along with other simple changes, could have an immense impact on
the ease and independence of persons with mobility disabilities."

(f) Ensure Persons with Disabilities have a Direct Say in
Accessibility Standards

The Building Code should provide a mechanism for ensuring that the broader
disability community will have a real and meaningful say in the standards for
accessibility to be set under the Building Code now and in the future. In this
regard we again refer you to the statements made on behalf of the Ontario
Government, set out above, on the importance of having persons with
disabilities at the table. We also note by comparison that s. 23(2) of the new
Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 provides:

(2) The Lieutenant Governor in Council shall not make a regulation under
subsection (1) until it has published a draft of it in The Ontario Gazette and
allowed interested persons a reasonable opportunity to make comments on the
draft to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

We note as well that s. 4 of that Act provides:

4. (1) In consultation with persons with disabilities and others, the
Government of Ontario shall develop barrier-free design guidelines to promote
accessibility for persons with disabilities to buildings, structures and
premises, or parts of buildings, structures and premises, that the Government
purchases, enters into a lease for, constructs or significantly renovates after
this section comes into force.

We point you to our 2001 brief on Bill 125 for our recommendations on how that
kind of process can and should be legislatively improved.

(g) Enforcement and Remedies

We recommend that any legislation providing for removal and prevention of
barriers facing persons with disabilities should have effective enforcement
mechanisms and effective remedies against those who break the law.

(h) Availability of Building Code to the Public

The Ontario Government should take steps to ensure that the Building Code and
its disability access provisions are made readily and easily available to the
public at no charge. Both persons with disabilities and builders should be able
to quickly and easily get copies of these, so they will know what the Code
provides. This information should be available in alternative formats to ensure
its full accessibility.

6. Conclusion

We would be pleased to provide any additional help to ensure that Ontario has
strong and effective legislation to achieve a barrier-free province for all
persons with disabilities including an improved Building Code.


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