accessibility

accessibility

Barrier Free Washrooms and Ontario Accessibility Laws Coming in 2025

What Is a Barrier Free Washroom?

As the name implies, a barrier free washroom is a commercial rest room that does not have any physical barriers that restrict people from easily using is it. Anyone, including people using wheelchairs and handicapped people, can get in and out of it without a struggle, and can use the bathroom equipment any impediments.

Barrier free washrooms can be installed in homes and in commercial settings. For commercial environments, there are specific guidelines which are usually published by local municipalities that set out the rules and regulations for designing and installing barrier free washrooms.

A barrier free washroom is sometimes referred to as a universal washroom, but a universal washroom is accessible by individuals and/or their caregiver only. A washroom can be accessed and used by anyone at any time.

All the bathroom equipment in a universal washroom including the powered doors, bathroom stalls, the sink, toilet, the waste receptacles, and the soap dispensers are easily usable and accessible by anyone.

Certain facilities and work environments must ensure they’ve built regular barrier free washrooms, and one or more universal washrooms on their premises.

Contractors and builders must make themselves familiar with these regulations and guidelines and ensure that the projects they build strictly follow them.

There Are Strict Specifications to Follow

There are strict specifications that guide the dimensions, height, widths, angles, and positioning of the equipment and walls so as to ensure that handicapped people and people in wheelchairs are not blocked from easily using them.

You can see this list of common OBC compliant washroom equipment in the related resources section below, for examples of the type of accessories that are required in a barrier free washroom.

These strict specifications also apply to change rooms. Handicapped people, and people using wheelchairs are to have unhindered access to change rooms, and the equipment within them.

These standards fall under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) which aims to make public washrooms in Ontario completely accessible and restriction free to everyone by the year 2025.

You must abide by the AODA standards by 2025 if you provide goods and services, if you own a building or premise that is used by others, and if you are an employer in Ontario.

Making Yourself familiar with the OBC Act

The following link is the official Building Code Act which you can peruse to make yourself familiar with it. The Act is quite detailed and complex, but most builders and renovations companies have been building their projects around these standards for years since the Act was first drafted in 1992. The Ontario Building Code Act address both barrier free and universal washroom standards.

The term “universal washroom” is found in the Ontario Building Code Act 18 times. This suggests that businesses, corporations and other places of employment should expect to have a universal washroom build integrated into their renovation projects.

There are sections in the OBC Act addressing standards for each section of a washroom, they include specifications for:

  • Water closets and enclosures
  • Urinals
  • Lavatories (sinks)
  • Mirrors
  • Washroom Accessories
  • Doors
  • Hand dryers
  • Paper towel dispensers
  • Showers
  • Changing rooms
  • Adaptable seating
  • Grab bars
  • Faucets
  • Barrier free paths
  • Entrances/exits

The objective of the OBC Act is to ensure washrooms are completely accessible and any person’s right to use the washroom is guaranteed. The aim to ensure individual privacy and dignity for all people with or without a disability, and those requiring the help of an assistant

Related Resources

For more information you can read the following resources which will provide you with updated information about the OBC Act and provide you with a clearer overview of what needs to be done to integrate barrier free and universal washrooms into your projects.

New InsureTech solution launched to ward off legal threat from digital accessibility non-compliance


A new technology solution has been launched to help organisations demonstrate reasonable adjustment towards digital accessibility compliance, and ward off the threat of increasingly prevalent legal action in the USA.  AAAtraq is an automated compliance identification management system that allows organisations to understand their existing level of accessibility non-compliance risk exposure, and then work towards full compliance through a managed process.

The number of digital accessibility lawsuits filed against companies of all sizes in the USA increased by 183% between 2017 and 2018 , and with increasing media scrutiny, those numbers are expected to have risen substantially in 2019. In one of the more high-profile cases, Domino’s Pizza was found guilty of not making its website app accessible for use by people with visual impairments, and was forced to make adjustments to improve its user experience.

AAAtraq is a new service that wants to reverse these trends, by giving website owners a low cost, fast track route to protecting their organisations from the risks of legal action with an easy to use managed service. As well as a personalised pathway to compliance, subscribers receive an AAAtraq ‘accessibility rating’ badge that can be displayed on websites warning those looking to take legal action that they are working towards digital compliance. Complementary insurance—currently for US-based organisations—with up to a US$50,000 benefit limit from global carrier BRIT adds further protection.

AAAtraq assesses current levels of risk, provides guidance to demonstrate reasonable adjustment and enables ongoing certification. A complementary ‘risk profile’ is accessible immediately online, helping any organization to quickly understand if their website is currently compliant and the precise level of risk they face.

1: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanrobinson/2019/09/25/website-accessibility-online-business/#4632ebba9c19

A monthly subscription service provides access to AAAtraq’s full managed service, which offers an automated approach to achieving ongoing compliance. This includes: a guided methodology and full digital supplier management, AI based training and education for developers and content producers, to ensure they understand their responsibilities; benchmarking and KPIs to measure improvements.

An inherent part of the non-compliance problem, according to CEO Lawrence Shaw, is that that accessibility legislation has become overly complicated. “Organisations are not deliberately non-compliant, but the level of misinformation in circulation coupled with a succession of successful legal cases in the US, has created the perfect storm,” he says.

This is because of three factors: opportunistic lawyers seeking financial rewards, digital suppliers who are not being held accountable by their clients and end user organisations who are too reliant on third party suppliers and unsure of their responsibilities according to the accessibility legislation to demonstrate ‘reasonable adjustment’.

“Digital inaccessibility lawsuits are one of the fastest growing financial risks for organisations who are literally ‘burying their heads in the sand’ because they don’t understand the accessibility legislation and mistakenly believe it is difficult and expensive to comply,” concludes Shaw.

For more information visit www.AAAtraq.com
Or contact

James Simpson, Managing Director,
TMCC +44 (0)13 7272 4686
j.simpson@tmccmarketing.co.uk
+44 (0)77 7192 0893

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