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Posted: November 20, 2021

Have your say on making new buildings more accessible

The provincial government is inviting all British Columbians to provide their feedback about how to make new buildings more accessible for all people.

“Everyone should be able to enter, exit and move through buildings independently and with dignity, and we need to hear from British Columbians on how we can best support that,” said Dan Coulter, Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility. “This engagement is the first step in fulfilling our commitment to make sure the next BC Building Code will do a better job at making new buildings more accessible for all people.”

A public engagement about BC Building Code accessibility requirements is open and will run until Dec. 9. The input collected through an online survey will be used to help government develop changes to the next BC Building Code to make new buildings more accessible. The survey is available here.

“The Rick Hansen Foundation supports the Province of British Columbia’s commitment to updating the BC Building Code to improve accessibility for people of all abilities,” said Doramy Ehling, CEO, Rick Hansen Foundation. “Input from industry and accessibility professionals, organizations of and for people with disabilities, and especially those with lived experience, will ensure user perspectives and expertise remain at the centre of all building code improvements. B.C.’s leadership in creating a higher, consistent standard of accessibility that Canadians want and deserve is a good example for all other provinces and territories to follow.”

The Ministry of Attorney General and Responsible for Housing will publish an online report summarizing key themes of the public engagement in the new year. Proposed accessibility code changes based on the feedback received will then be developed and are expected to be released for further feedback before they are included in the next BC Building Code.

The BC Building Code provides a standard set of rules for construction throughout the province. Accessibility requirements within the building code set the rules for the design and construction of new buildings to ensure people can approach, enter, exit and move through buildings independently. Local governments throughout B.C. help enforce the building code so that buildings are safe and healthy to visit, work and live in.

“Occupational therapists have long been involved in making accessibility recommendations that remove barriers in the built environment and enable participation in meaningful activities for people living with disabilities and for those who want to age in their homes,” said Tanya Fawkes, regional director, Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, British Columbia.

“Historically, this has often required significant changes to the existing environment because the current building code falls short of addressing the needs of many British Columbians. We are hopeful that, with public and stakeholder group engagement, the consultation process will raise the building codes to the standards intended in the Accessible British Columbia Act; aimed at removing and preventing barriers to accessibility and increasing inclusion.”

Accessibility is an essential element of everyday life for more than 20% of British Columbians.

Disability prevalence is higher among Indigenous Peoples across Canada: 36% of Indigenous women (compared to 24% of non-Indigenous women) and 26% of Indigenous men (compared to 20% of non-Indigenous men).

The BC Building Code establishes minimum accessibility code requirements for the design and construction of new buildings, including schools and recreation centres, care, treatment or detention occupancies (such as hospitals, clinics, and jails), offices, stores, hotels/motels, and common spaces in apartments and condominiums.

The BC Building Code changes about every five years. A building must meet the BC Building Code that’s in force when it is built.

The Accessible British Columbia Act came into force in 2021. The act provides the framework to create accessibility standards to identify, remove and prevent barriers.

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