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Future Regulation Modifications Regarding Accessibility

The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) is presently working on the development of the 2010 National Building Code. The regulation process will follow its course and in the end, Quebec will eventually adopt a modified version of Chapter 1 - Building, in 2013.

At the same time, the Régie du bâtiment du Québec and the Office des personnes handicapées du Québec appointed a joint Committee director in order to study and eventually put into place the various modifications to accessibility outside the regular cycle of modifications to the Quebec Construction Code. Since 2007, this committee has been working on proposing standards pertaining to the adaptability of apartment buildings.

Finally, Article 69 of the Law which ensures the rights of disabled people in light of their educational, professional, and social integration required the Ministère du travail to complete, by December 17, 2006 at the latest, a government report on the accessibility of buildings built before 1976, to be presented to interested groups. This report deals, among other things, with problems of the non-accessibility of these buildings, on real estate categories which might be aimed at or considered exempt by the standards, on the costs of the application of these standards by real estate category, and this according to a determined deadline. The Ministry must also, in the year following the presentation of this report, specify by regulation the real estate categories which must be rendered accessible to handicapped persons and the accessibility standards which owners must respect. A regulation project on this topic remains to be completed.

Buildings - Accessibility Requirements

In Québec, regulatory requirements regarding accessibility appear in the Québec Building Code, Chapter 1 - Building, and Chapter 4 - Elevators and other elevating devices.

Chapter 1 - Building of the Québec Building Code is, in fact, the French version of the National Building Code, which is published by National Research Council Canada and adopted in Québec by regulation with the addition of a number of modifications, including several that deal with accessibility. Although most of the accessibility requirements appear in Section 3.8, Barrier-free design, such requirements can also be found in other sections of Part 3 and other parts of the Code.

Chapter 1 - Building of the Québec Building Code is usually updated after a new edition of the National Building Code is issued. The Code presently in force was adopted by Quebec in May 2008 and is based on the 2005 edition of the National Building Code.

Chapter 4 - Elevators and other elevating devices is specific to Québec. In effect since October of 2004, it makes three CSA (Canadian Standards Association) standards containing accessibility requirements mandatory:

  • CAN/CSA-B44-00 - Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators
  • CAN/CSA-B355-00 - Lifts for Persons with Physical Disabilities
  • CAN/CSA-B613-00 - Private Residence Lifts for Persons with Physical Disabilities

Buildings subject to the Code and Code-exempt buildings

Adopted under the Building Act, Chapter 1 - Building of the Québec Building Code applies to all buildings constructed or upgraded in Québec, except for buildings that are exempt under regulation 954-2000. Exempt buildings include: a prison, a supervised residence used to shelter or accommodate no more than 9 persons, a building with no more than 2 storeys or 8 dwellings, a commercial establishment with a total floor area of no more than 300 m2, etc. All other buildings are covered by and must comply with Chapter 1 - Building.

However, the buildings that are outside of the jurisdiction of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec must still comply with some construction regulations: the regulations in force in the area in which they are built or upgraded. Each municipality has the power to adopt construction regulations for these buildings. Some adopt Chapter 1 - Building of the Québec Building Code, while others pass another by-law. It is therefore necessary to check with each municipality and find out what regulations are in effect, as well as the applicable accessibility requirements.

We can therefore expect similar accessibility performance for all buildings that are subject to the code, built or upgraded since the current Québec Building Code came into effect. For exempt buildings, performance can vary depending on the by-laws in effect in the municipality they are located in.

New and existing buildings

The requirements of construction regulations are not retroactive. A building must comply with the requirements that were in effect when it was built or upgraded. A building constructed prior to 1976 which has never been upgraded can therefore be inaccessible and still compliant… Leading, once again, to disparities in buildings' accessibility performances.

Construction regulations: minimum accessibility requirements

Chapter 1 - Building of the Québec Building Code sets out minimum accessibility requirements. They only meet some of the needs of people who use manual wheelchairs. Very few requirements are designed to meet the needs of people with other functional limitations, such as people with sight or hearing impairments. The Code recommends layouts specific to people with impairments which sometimes result in different, separate, segregated layouts. Finally, compliance with regulatory requirements does not guarantee a functional layout. Frequently, for the people it was designed for, a compliant layout can still be very hard to use. This is why universal accessibility is so important!

What about the Standard CSA B-651 - Accessible Design for the Built Environment?

The Standard CSA B-651 is a reference document that sets out more stringent, more complete design standards than do the construction regulations, as do many other standards documents. It is not mandatory. However, organizations under the federal government's jurisdiction rigorously apply the standard when building or upgrading their facilities.

What about facilities that are not buildings?

There are no provincial accessibility regulations for facilities that are not directly attached to a building, such as parks, urban equipment on a commercial thoroughfare, parking lots, etc. Where there are no minimum requirements, reference documents become even more important.

For these facilities, we strongly recommend compliance with, at a minimum, the barrier-free design requirements in Chapter 1 - Building of the Québec Building Code, adapted to the context. For example, as a building access path must have a maximum slope of 1:20 or be considered as a ramp, the same goes for a park lane. Since a parking lot next to a building must have a certain number of parking spots reserved for disabled people, the same goes for a municipal or private parking lot.