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The Globe and Mail

Ontario makes barrier-free buildings the norm, not the exception

New accessibility rules apply to all new commercial, industrial and multi-residential construction. Existing buildings must comply when undergoing renovations

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When planning their new office in 2005, Lerners LLP, an Ontario law firm, decided to get on board with Ontario’s new accessibility standards well in advance of the 2015 legal need to comply. Here, the public reception area accommodates people using walkers, wheelchairs or scooters. It also has been fitted with low and high greeting shelves.

Ben Rahn/McGregor Design Group

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The accessibility flows through to the Lerners back office. To comply with the new building code changes that took effect on Jan. 1., the McGregor Design Group increased the width of corridors, and made sure the path of travel is equipped with automatic door openers.

Ben Rahn/McGregor Design Group

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Staff washrooms include sinks configured at lower-than-standard height with enough clearance underneath to allow a wheelchair to roll up to it. As well, towel dispensers must be positioned in easy reach for all.

Ben Rahn/McGregor Design Group

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With a creative approach to space design, private offices do not need to expand to comply with rules for larger accessibility turning radius, according to the McGregor Design Group. For example, the use of “work walls” instead of traditional desk and credenza set-ups means that offices can be smaller than the current standard and still comply with new regulations.

McGregor Design Group

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Here, the boardroom at Maple Leaf Foods Inc. of Toronto allows adequate turning radiuses at all points, monolithic flooring and lower side credenza surfaces. Individuals with assistive devices can participate in a meeting – and help themselves to lunch.

McGregor Design Group

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In Vaughan, a northern suburb of Toronto, the new city hall, built in 2012, stands out for barrier-free features. Here, Warren Rupnarain, the city’s accessibility and diversity co-ordinator, demonstrates some of the accessibility features.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

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The new city hall provides texture strips near ramps, stairs and other elevation changes; wider doors and corridors for easier wheelchair access; and automatic door openers. Lynn McGregor, principal of McGregor Design Group, observes that “barrier-free or accessibility rules don’t just apply to someone who needs a wheelchair; they apply to the hearing and visually impaired.”

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

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Here, Mr. Rupnarain rolls up to the lower counters in council chambers. Read more about the Ontario’s new accessibility regulations that went into effect on Jan. 1 at the link below: What does your office look like from a wheelchair?

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

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