Meeting the requirements of the National Building Code may not be enough to avoid human rights complaints about accessibility, the NWT Human Rights Commission says.
In a news release on Monday, the commission warned northern businesses that the age of their building does not necessarily protect them from complaints.
Many downtown Yellowknife buildings are now more than half a century old. Though they may have met the building code of the time, comparatively few have basic accessibility aids like elevators.
“Meeting the building code does not mean that a building, space, or meeting is accessible. Unfortunately, this may only become apparent after someone files a human rights complaint,” the commission stated.
“Many business owners believe they are exempt from current accessibility standards because they have been ‘grandfathered’ based on the age of the structure, but this is not always the case.
“Courts and Human Rights Tribunals are making decisions that demonstrate compliance with the National Building Code does not always protect a business from human rights complaints.”
The commission instructed businesses to take responsibility for accommodating all individuals’ accessibility needs.
“At its core, accessibility is about a person’s dignity. We all have the right to be treated with respect and included as members of our communities. Accessibility is more than a legal standard,” the commission stated.