Code changes for functionality and accessibility

A person with dexterity limitations may not be able to employ knob-type hardware. Lever-type hardware is easier to use by more people.
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Universal washrooms
Universal washrooms accommodating people with disabilities and families are available in public buildings.

In NBC 2015, the NBC Article on universal washrooms has been updated to clarify criteria for locking devices and toilet paper dispensers, making them more easily usable by people with disabilities. The section also harmonizes requirements like grab bar placement and toilet paper dispenser with those applicable for other accessible washrooms.

Safe access to showers and bathtubs for people with disabilities is essential. In both spaces, NBC 2015 provides more clarity to improve their accessibility, functionality, and safety for users.

In spaces where a wheel-in shower is provided, NBC has been updated to enhance its accessibility. First, a requirement for more grab bars, which provides stability when using a shower seat or when walking in and out of the shower. Second, a longer hose for hand-held shower heads making them more reachable and usable. Third, shower doors or curtains cannot obstruct the controls or transfer space, and, finally, an allowance for a maximum vertical threshold of 6 mm (1⁄4 in.) is permitted.

The broad objective of accessibility implies the access by every citizen to all aspects of societies.

Code development process
The changes to NBC 2015 were achieved through a transparent consensus-based process, which included input and feedback from stakeholders and the general public.

Established by the National Research Council Canada (NRC), the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) develops and maintains NBC. Committee members are selected from across Canada for their individual interests and expertise. Membership on committees is also balanced across Canada’s different regions and general interest categories.

CCBFC receives policy advice from the Provincial/Territorial Policy Advisory Committee on Codes (PTPACC). This committee is made up of representatives from the provincial and territorial ministries responsible for building, plumbing, energy efficiency, and fire safety regulations. CCBFC oversees the work of several committees and TGs, and formally approves all model code documents and technical revisions prior to publication by NRC.

Accessibility requirements in NBC fall under the mandate of the Standing Committee on Use and Egress (SC-UE).

Code change requests
The NBC development process partly relies on Code Change Requests (CCRs) from users. These CCRs can be submitted online by anyone and will be evaluated by the relevant committees.

CCRs should demonstrate there is a problem with existing requirements, there is an omission, or a change is needed. Requests should be clearly stated and address generic or widespread technical issues. Each request should answer the following questions:

  • what is the problem;
  • what is the proposed solution and how does it address the problem;
  • which of the stated objectives and functional statements of the Code will the proposed solution assist in achieving; and
  • what are the cost/benefit and enforcement implications of the proposal?

The submissions of CCRs help the committees to understand the gaps in accessibility requirements.

What can one do?
NBC is constantly being re-evaluated, analyzed, and updated. The process involves input from stakeholders, committee members, and the general public. To continue with enhancement and improvement of NBC, interested persons are encouraged to:

  • volunteer for a standing committee;
  • submit a CCR;
  • review and comment on the proposed changes; and
  • respond to information requests from NRC.

Moving forward
The need to advance accessibility requirements in NBC is currently being reviewed by CCBFC to make sure provincial/territorial as well as federal policy goals for an accessible built environment are addressed by the requirements in NBC.

The SC-UE is currently evaluating a variety of topics, including:

  • review requirements for automatic door openers providing access to buildings and within buildings, and address remain open time of these doors;
  • analysis of the use of washrooms based on demographics (e.g. family washrooms and gender-neutral washrooms);
  • review of requirements on all types of safety signage in a building;
  • analysis of locations where tactile warning surface indicators (TWSIs) are to be provided;
  • review expansion of the scope of requirements in NBC related to protruding objects in pedestrian areas; and
  • analysis of potential requirements for the minimum illumination levels at operations and reading locations.
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