The Newfoundland and Labrador government says changes are coming to accessibility regulations for buildings, parking lots and other facilities in the province.

Service NL announced Monday its intentions to amend the Buildings Accessibility Regulations and Mobility Impaired Parking Regulations.

The new rules will apply to new construction and to buildings being extensively renovated.

Service NL MInister Sherry Gambin-Walsh accessiblity

Service NL MInister Sherry Gambin-Walsh (left) announced changed to accessibility regulations for public buildings on Monday. (Jen WHite/CBC)

Washrooms 

To address barriers to public washrooms, government plans to require accessible stalls to be larger — no less than 1.6 metres wide (just over five feet) by 1.5 metres deep.

That's to make sure there is enough space to allow a person with mobility issues to get from a wheelchair to the toilet, an issue identified in a CBC News series Access Denied.

Another change to washrooms would require a minimum clearance requirement of 1.5 metres by 1.5 metres (about five feet) in front of an accessible stall, allowing more room for turning a wheelchair.

Ramp grades

Another amendment to regulations will require wheelchair ramps to have a more gentle slope at 1:16 gradient level.

Currently the minimum standard is 1:12, but 1:15 has been a "preferred" slope.

Wheelchair users have complained to CBC about problems accessing public buildings such as Mile One Centre and St. Clare's Hospital in St. John's.

Parking

Blue-zone spaces will no longer be all blue, because paint is a slip-and-fall hazard. Instead, the spaces will be identified by vertical signs.

As well, six per cent of available parking will have to be made accessible, compared with four per cent now, and there will be a requirement for van-sized parking spaces.

Fines for illegally parking in an accessible space will also increase from a range of $100 to $400 to a new range of $400 to $700.

Accessible apartments

Apartment buildings will also be required to have a better ratio of accessible units. Currently, only 1 in 15 has to be accessible.

New regulations will require 1 in 10 to be fully accessible and there will be clearer regulations about bathrooms and interior halls in those apartments. 

New and renovated buildings will also need to have power door operators.

Floors and counters

Currently small areas of up to 12 square meters are allowed to be raised in public buildings for security areas and observation.

New regulations would put and to that, making the entire floor space accessible for customers and staff.

Counters will also have to be barrier free.

Service NL says existing regulations are open to interpretation.

Outdated wording

Current legislation will also be changed to get rid of outdated terms such as "physically disabled persons," instead using "persons with disabilities."

The changes will bring the province in line with the National Building Code of Canada and Canadian Standards Association design rules for buildings and public spaces.

According to Monday's announcement, the Mobility Impaired Parking Regulations will be brought in within two months of being written and the new Buildings Accessibility Regulations will be brought in within six months of being written.

With files from Jen White