Changes approved to Vancouver building bylaw include more accessibility
Vancouver has approved changes to its building code that will make new homes more accessible for seniors and people with disabilities.
At a meeting today, city council approved a series of requirements as part of a new building bylaw.
Those include wider doorways, lever faucets on sinks, accessible door viewers, and accessible showers, or the infrastructure to later adapt them.
Jill Weiss, the chair of Vancouver’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, said the changes approved today (September 25) are “vitally important”.
“This means that we will be able to operate in houses in the city of Vancouver…that the housing will be for everyone,” she said in an interview. “So I can’t say how important it is.”
Weiss noted that she still wants to see further changes made to ensure accessible paths to and from new homes. As part of the recommendations approved today, council requested that staff report back on the issue.
“An accessible path to an entrance on all new houses has been in place in England for 14 years,” said Weiss. “Since 1999, it cost virtually nothing, and it works just fine. So it’s fine that they’re going to study it, but the evidence is overwhelming that that makes sense to do, and it’s not expensive.”
Other building code changes approved by council include an amendment that provides developers and building owners with the option of having gender-neutral washrooms.
According to city staff, Vancouver’s building code will be the first in Canada to recognize gender-neutral washrooms. The option comes with increased security measures, such as more specific requirements around locking devices.
Drew Dennis, the chair of the city’s LGBTQ advisory committee, said transgender and gender-variant people often face harassment when they use public washrooms.
“What we have heard consistently from these residents is that this is a real obstacle for those who wish to participate and engage actively in city life,” said Dennis.
“Think about going to the gym, going to the library, cultural things, of course using washrooms in parks and recreation facilities. For many of these taxpaying citizens, it’s something they experience on a daily basis.”
Other changes under the new building bylaw include a mechanism designed to encourage owners of single-room occupancy buildings to upgrade some suites to add private washrooms.
New buildings will also be required to have improved energy and water efficiency.