ACCESSIBLE BATHROOMS: WHAT'S REQUIRED IN CREATING A BARRIER-FREE WASHROOM?

a man in a wheelchair

Enacted in 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) began the push for government offices, businesses, and non-profit organizations to make their spaces easy to access for all citizens.

A key part of the AODA plan is accessible bathrooms in public areas. The Ontario Building Code (OBC) sets the rules for universal washroom design that meets AODA expectations for owners and managers of commercial properties.

If you haven't read up on them lately, you may have missed some notable updates to the OBC. This article will discuss the essential points to ensure your property meets the current standards for barrier-free restrooms, so keep reading below to learn more. 

 

Ontario Requirements for Accessible Bathrooms

The OBC was last updated in January 2020, and with it came some much-needed clarity around basic bathroom fixtures. Barrier-free washrooms need to follow requirements set in Articles 3.8.3.8 to 3.8.3.12 of the code. At the same time, all other washrooms must follow certain rules depending on how close they are to universal washrooms.

 

If you're not sure where Ontario requires barrier-free bathrooms, you can check Article 3.8.2.3 to see if your setup needs to follow the new code. In general, if you run an accessible business building, there needs to be at least one universal washroom for every three storeys.

 

If your building requires a universal bathroom, it must have several accessibility features, including:

  • Barrier-free route to the bathroom

  • Latchable door that can be unlocked from outside

  • At least 1700mm space between walls to allow wheelchairs to turn

  • Power door operation if there is an auto-close arm on the door

  • Emergency call system with visual and audio signals inside and outside the washroom

  • Adult-size change table at least 810mm x 1830mm

The list of rules details the sizing and spacing of different washroom features such as stalls, urinals, showers, and bathtubs. The 2020 OBC updates didn't change much, but there were helpful updates to washroom controls and power door devices.

 

Water Closet Stalls

There were minor changes made for stalls to adjust confusing wording and update criteria for flush controls.

The OBC provides clear measurements around water closet stall features, including:

  • Water closet seat height

  • Grab bar height, depth, and location relative to the water closet

  • Coat hook and door shelf height and depth

  • Door swing dimensions and latch location

  • Toilet paper dispenser height and distance from the water closet

  • Total stall area


In past versions, the wording for the design of non-automatic flushing mechanisms was vague. The new code offers specific measures for where the flush control should be located and the amount of force needed to activate it.

 

Sinks and Urinals

Outside of stalls, sinks and urinals are two of the most common universal washroom fixtures. The OBC breaks down the dimensions for both, with specific measurements for the following:

  • Size and location of vertical grab bars flanking the urinal

  • Manual flush control locations and usability

  • Urinal size and location

  • Space in front of the urinal

  • Sink size and location

  • Pipe insulation

  • Soap dispenser height and usability

  • Faucet operation

  • Towel dispenser height and usability

 

There were several changes to the rules around lavatories, but there are still areas that need further clarification.

 

Update Your Barrier-Free Restrooms

A move toward more accessible bathrooms is a win-win for you and the public. There's still work to be done for our province to meet its AODA goals by 2025, and you can play your part with thoughtful upgrades to service a larger group of Ontarians.

 

If you're ready to update your barrier-free washrooms, the pros at Southwest Doors and Hardware are here to help. Contact our experts today for information on the latest standards and technology to get your buildings up to date.