Monday, May 16, 2016

Movement forward with accessibility of housing (from VisitAbility to Universal Design)

I recently sent an email to some contacts to highlight the positive movement in the accessibility of housing. Here are the things that I'm aware of, no doubt there's much more. Attachments can be emailed to you if you would like them.


United Nations: The UN is very clear about their mandate to encourage Universal Design in their New Urban Agenda 2030 as well as all their work surrounding Habitat III and Sustainable Development Goals.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Canada ratified the CRPD in 2010 (not the Optional Protocol but 87 countries have).  Article 9 speaks of Accessibility, which includes housing. (attachment A)

European Student Design Competition for Accessible Housing

 A number of countries have already moved forward with VisitAbility, or additional requirements, in their national building codes (so the scope of VisitAbility is international, not a concept for the future). (attachment B).

LEED v4 for Neighbourhood Development (from the US Green Building Council) has a section on VisitAbility and Universal Design (pages 48-49 at

International Code Council  A117.1 (2009) also has a VisitAbility section on page 105.


Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: section 15 of the Charter forbids disability discrimination. Seeing as human rights trumps all other legislation, including building codes, the exposure and risk of litigation is significant if status quo is maintained by building homes with architectural barriers.  (attachment C)

Prime Minister Trudeau's Mandate Letter to Minister Carla Qualtrough speaks of inclusion, greater accessibility and the passage of a Canadians with Disabilities Act.

The 2020 National Building Code is implementing the Canadian Standards Association B651 (Accessibility guidelines that are far more thorough than the current section 3.8).   (attachment D)

VisitAbility is also part of Canadian  Standards Association B651 (Treasury Dept already requires CSA B651).

Code Change Request #964 with the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes recommends VisitAbility for all new dwellings on grade and for those accessible by an elevator. It's already been heard by three Committees (Executive, Housing and Small Buildings, and Use and Egress). A report is due in the Fall from the Housing and Small Building Committee and the Use and Egress Committee. (attachment E, see highlighting)

First Nations Resolution #13 for VisitAble Housing (started in BC, now national).

Private Member's Bill C-265 had its first reading on May 3, 2016 and proposes "to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians". 


VisitAbility is required in 15% of units for Group C Major Occupancy buildings since January 1, 2015. Although the percentage is relatively low, there's still the fact that Ontario has already legislated it into the Ontario Building Code. It's a reasonable assumption that the percentage of units required will climb with future OBC updates as our demographics require it.  (attachment F)

Ontario’s Investment in Affordable Housing has accessibility as one of its key objectives. (attachment G)

The Age-Friendly Community Planning Guide (2015) discusses Universal Design. (attachment H)

The Ontario Human Rights Code is also very clear about the right to occupancy of accommodation (attachment) as well as the Duty to Accommodate (attachment). This is an on-going right by all Ontarians, again trumping all other legislation, which includes the Ontario Building Code. (attachment I)

The Accessibility of Ontarians with Disabilities Act Review is also very clear on page 66 that the Ontario Human Rights code trumps the AODA (and any limitations that the AODA may have).  (attachment J)

Model homes must also offer consideration for individuals with disabilities. (attachment K)

Some provinces are doing quite well with VisitAbility (or other intiatives) already (attachment L):
            Manitoba: Winnipeg’s Bridgwater development
            BC: Saanich, Vancouver, Measuring up the North


Affordable housing in Ottawa already has VisitAbility in newer projects, ahead of the change to OBC (attachment M). They had 10-12% of units being accessible even before the requirement in the Investment in Affordable Housing.

VisitAbility for residential housing is also mentioned in the 2015 update of the Ottawa Accessibility Design Standards, page 194. (attachment N)

The Older Adult Plan has a 2016 mandate for the Planning and Growth Management department to promote adaptable, age-friendly homes. (attachment O).

I think it's safe to say that the evidence that I have presented is quite clear as to which direction housing is going in...the removal of architectural barriers, whether it be with the most economical choice of VisitAbility or all the way to Universal Design. My final attachment is from an Australian document which has a very strong supporting comment for VisitAbility. (attachment P)

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