Canadian policies and practices

The National Building Code (NBC), developed by the Canadian Codes Center of the Institute for Research in Construction (a branch of the National Research Center), is the standard on which many of the provincial regulations are based. The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) developed B651, the Barrier Free Design Standards in 1975. This standard, now called B651-04 Accessible Design for the Built Environment, specifies minimum technical requirements, including a section that addresses kitchen and bathroom specifications. It has been revised many times, with the cur­rent version reaffirmed in 2010. As is true in the United States, this standard does not have the force of law unless mandated by a particular province. It is based on "average adult" dimension and to effectively use the concepts, a designer would need to consult with the end user.

Because of provincial jurisdiction, progress has been difficult in Canada in the development and enforcement of national civil rights or legislation related to housing, such as the ADA and the Fair Housing Act in the United States. In 1982, the federal government enacted the Charter of Rights and Freedoms including Section 15 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of mental or physical handicap. However, the Charter of Rights has not been as thoroughly implemented into specific enforceable legislation as the Fair Housing Act and the ADA in the United States.

In Ontario, the building code includes specific requirements for accessible buildings, and in 2001, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) was passed. The purpose of the ODA is to improve op­portunities for people with disabilities, and to enable them to become involved in the identifica­tion, removal, and prevention of barriers faced by persons with disabilities.

Recognizing the difficulties in mandating change, the Canadian federal government, through Canada Mortgage and Housing (CMHC), has chosen to assist the development of housing through financial instruments such as grants, loans, and insurance arrangements. CMHC assistance helps low-income and older Canadians, people with disabilities, and Aboriginals, with housing options and help with housing expenses.

For example, in 1986 the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP-D) for Persons with Disabilities was developed to offer financial assistance to homeowners and landlords to undertake accessibility work to modify dwellings occupied, or intended for occupancy by, low-income persons with disabilities. Another example is the Home Adaptations for Seniors’ Independence (HASI) program, which helps homeowners and landlords pay for minor home adaptations to extend the time low-income seniors can live in their own homes independently.


There is a wealth of information available to plan bathroom spaces based on realistic human di­mensions. Anthropometric studies give you basic dimensions for people of a variety of sizes and ages. Awareness of this information as you develop a plan for a client’s bath will help to more accurately determine sizes and spatial relationships in each case.

In this chapter, you have also been presented with a quick summary of federal access laws, codes, and standards. While this overview provides a level of familiarity, each bathroom you design may fall under specific local regulations, and you will need to work with your local officials for guidance and technical assistance.

For more information on housing accessibility, contact the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). For ADA access issues concerning public facilities, contact the U. S. Depart­ment of Justice. For issues pertaining to UFAS, ADAAG, and the 2010 Standards, contact the Ac­cess Board. To increase your awareness of local access laws, contact the building inspector and consult local homebuilder associations.

As one universal design leader noted, "It is questionable whether accessibility standards will ever encourage designers to practice universal design." However, considering the long-term demo­graphic trends pointing to an increase in older age groups, access needs will not go away, and universal design is a broad and beautiful way to achieve improved access without mandates.


1. Define universal design and explain who benefits from it (See "Universal Design" page 91).

2. What is anthropometry and how does it help determine bathroom planning guidelines? (See "Anthropometry" page 92)

3. What is the standard reach range of someone who remains seated to maneuver in the bath­room? (See "Height and Reach Range" page 95)

4. What is the referenced technical standard for compliance with the accessibility requirements of the International Building Code and many other state and local codes? (See "American National Standard for Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities" page 108)

Updated: September 28, 2015 — 9:45 pm