How to Survey, Track, and Defend Your Building’s Compliance

Imagine that you’re a blind person visiting an unfamiliar building for an appointment. Suddenly, you start to smell smoke and the fire alarm sounds. You can hear people around you screaming and running, but you have no idea where the fire exits are located.

You try to use your cane to get your bearings and find a way out, but it keeps getting bumped by panicking people. The smoke is making it difficult to breathe and time is running out.

This is just one potential dangerous scenario that someone with a disability could face. As persons who live without disabilities, we often take simple tasks like wayfinding and building access for granted. Here are a few more challenges that people with disabilities face on a daily basis:

  • Aisles between furniture often don’t have enough room for wheelchair or scooter users to turn around.
  • Floors can sometimes be too slippery for people who use canes to walk safely.
  • Light switches or fire alarms can be mounted too high on walls for persons in wheelchairs.

To help remove unfair barriers like these, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. Fifteen years later, Canada followed suit on the provincial level with the Accessibility for Ontarian’s Acts (AODA) in 2005. As of 2019, the Accessible Canada Act is on the verge of becoming law.

Building managers have been doing their best to adapt ever since, but it’s been difficult, especially considering the pressure to cut costs and find efficiencies.

Legislation and Beyond: Why Invest in Better Accessibility

For facility managers, legislation may create implementation challenges, but in both the USA and Canada there are strict deadlines and, in some cases, up to six-figure fines for noncompliance.

There are many good reasons to be proactive about ensuring compliance. For education, health care, and other public buildings, there is definitely a moral imperative to ensure there are no barriers to service. In Canada, for example, 60% of human rights complaints hinge on disability issues.

As illustrated in our fire alarm scenario, there are also critical safety concerns in many cases. While safety is obviously the priority, there are additional implications for legal liability and negative publicity.

But making your facility accessible also opens up a wealth of opportunities.

Opening Up Opportunities 

In 2017, 22% of Canadians reported having at least one disability according to Stats Canada. That represents a variety of largely untapped markets with the even wider scope when you consider that their families and friends will also want to support organizations that support accessibility efforts.

Unemployment percentages are much higher for people with disabilities. Making a facility accessible can mean accessing a potential talent pool of highly motivated staff for employers. 90% of people with disabilities rated average or better on job performance compared to their colleagues without disabilities

For multi-unit residential building managers, it can mean an additional pool of potential tenants.

Understanding What Requirements Apply to Your Properties 

In America, the ADA accessibility guidelines apply to all states. In Canada, the provinces of Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan all have accessibility legislation. There are different levels of compliance, however, depending on your organization type and the number of employees.

Some requirements are mandatory and some requirements are optional, and there are increasing levels of implementation required depending on the year.

The important thing to note is that as time passes, most sizeable organizations are required to continuously improve their accessibility.

Establishing a Provable Track Record 

Once you understand what upgrades apply to your facilities and when they need to be in place, having a centralized space planning and management tool like Archibus makes planning and tracking much easier.

Here are just a few examples of how Archibus can help your team with accessibility planning and reporting:

  1. In the Personnel and Occupancy application, the Team Space module allows you to review floor plans and occupancy levels. Understanding how often workstations are actually occupied (considering occupants may spend time in meetings or working remotely) can reveal space consolidation opportunities. This, in turn, can help managers plan more wheelchair and scooter-friendly traffic paths. 2D, 3D, building information modelling (BIM) and geographic information modelling (GIS) allow for better understanding of the built environment and how it works.
  2. The Emergency Preparedness application helps stakeholders walk through a variety of scenarios from the perspective of the visually impaired, the hearing impaired, or mobility impaired to preserve life safety.
  3. Because Archibus applications all use one central database, work orders for improvements are instantly accessible, along with date and cost information. Custom reports and audit trails provide managers with peace of mind.

There are many more ways that Archibus can make accessibility compliance and reporting easier.

Horizant Makes Archibus Adoption Easy 

Archibus is the ideal tool for surveying and tracking buildings and building portfolios, but the key is proper configuration and training. Horizant is one of North America’s foremost integrators of Archibus for the public and private sector.

Let us help you assess your facility management needs and make the most of opportunities Archibus provides.

Find out how we can help.