As the population ages, new buildings need to be designed to accommodate people with disabilities and existing buildings must be retrofitted for accessibility. Reliable Independent Living Services provides comprehensive consulting resources and solutions to building owners, architects and contractors seeking practical and cost-effective solutions.
“The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets out guidelines for things like how to build entrances, washrooms and public facilities,” says Reliable Independent Living Services founder Ronny Wiskin. “Anyone in the business of building new or retrofitting existing buildings is going to have to be knowledgeable about this Act.” While some of the law’s provisions will be effective on relatively short notice, building owners don’t need to panic about introducing retrofits as much of the legislation doesn’t take effect until 2025. However, Wiskin says it makes good business sense to waste no time in implementing accessibility solutions, especially if your business serves tenants or clients who are aging. Wiskin has first-hand experience and knows what works, and what doesn’t. His five-year-old business has retrofitted many residential and commercial buildings in the Toronto area. For example, Reliable Independent Living Services can create accessible showers in spaces which would otherwise be unfeasible to retrofit.
Wiskin says he first became aware of the challenges of accommodating seniors when he saw his grandmother suffering because she could not bathe in her retirement home. “She had osteoporosis and arthritis,” he said. “She had a real fear of falling. She was feeling very unsafe about getting in and out of the bathtub.”
Tod Valickis, Schluter Systems Ontario Regional Manager says Wiskin visited one of Schluter’s Innovation Workshops and discovered the solution to his grandmother’s problem. Schluter provides a waterproof membrane on which tile is directly applied. “You can build any structure you want, cover it with the membrane, and tile it,” Valickis said. This allowed Wiskin to design a shower for his grandmother within her living space without requiring building structural changes. Soon, Wiskin had several clients within the building wishing the same solution, and his business grew rapidly. “We’ve worked in over 300 homes in southwestern Ontario,” he said. Part of his service includes learning about and accessing financial resources for the renovations.
With success in serving individual seniors, Wiskin says he is now receiving calls from designers requesting consultation on accessibility issues for commercial and institutional buildings. “We can assess the planned or existing building, and make suggestions about how to comply with the provincial legislation at the most economical cost,” he said. “This advice will speed up the design process and save money.”
Wiskin says the changes need not be complex. For example, the cost of a 32 or 34-inch door is not much different than a conventional 24-inch opening. “If we are going to renovate a space, we’re doing it in a way that is usable long term and doesn’t have to be redone.”