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CanAge urges Ontario government to mandate bathroom grab bars in newly built homes

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CanAge undersigned a letter to the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, urging for universal grab bars in showers and bathtubs to be made mandatory in the next edition of Ontario’s building code.

This change would allow more seniors to age safely at home, as injuries caused by falls in bathrooms are extremely common.

Full transcript of the letter follows:


Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, 
Government of Ontario, 

February 16, 2022 

Re:  Public Consultation on Codes 

We, the undersigned, are writing to request an urgent meeting to discuss proposed code changes, as part of the current public consultation process for the next edition of Ontario’s building code.   

Specifically, we are very concerned that no change is proposed related to grab bars for tubs and showers in bathrooms despite ample evidence of their efficacy and effectiveness in reducing falls and fall-related injuries.  Furthermore, we understand that consideration is being given to requirements for universal backing in bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars but without a requirement for the actual installment of grab bars at the time of construction.  We understand that this option for universal backing is being discussed by several provinces with the intent of code harmonization.  Unfortunately, universal backing, without grab bars, will not prevent any falls.   

As part of the recent code review cycle, up-to-date evidence was brought forward to the Housing and Small Buildings Standing Committee of the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) regarding a code change that would require universal grab bars in bathrooms.  (Nancy Edwards, who is one of the signatories on this letter, was the proponent for the original request for this code change that was made in 2007).  During the latest CCBFC review cycle, the Standing Committee for Housing and Small Buildings essentially came to a stalemate with regard to a requirement for universal grab bars in showers and bathtubs.   

With Ontario’s efforts to improve housing options for Aging Safely in Place, and given the high rate of injurious falls in bathrooms, we think this gap in the current codes and the proposed directions for change (i.e. universal backing in bathrooms) is highly problematic and not in line with provincial policy directions.  Furthermore, with a large number of new housing builds proposed for Ontario by 2025, we consider regulations regarding universal grab bars to be an important priority.  

We look forward to speaking with you about this issue as part of the current public consultation.  Please contact Nancy Edwards ([email protected]) to arrange a meeting with members of our group. 

Sincerely, 

Nancy Edwards, RN (non-practising), PhD, FCAHS 
Professor Emerita and Distinguished Professor, 
University of Ottawa, 
C.A.R.P. Ottawa Chapter (Board Member and Chair of Fall Prevention Working Group) 

Heidi Sveistrup, PhD 
Full Professor, Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Ottawa 
CEO, Bruyère Research Institute 

Alison C. Novak, PhD 
Scientist, KITE Research Institute, University Health Network 
Assistant Professor, University of Toronto 

Paulette Guitard,  
Full Professor, School of Rehabilitation Sciences,  
University of Ottawa 

Laura Tamblyn Watts, LLB 
CEO, CanAge: Canada’s National Seniors’ Advocacy Organization 
Adjunct Professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work,  
University of Toronto  

Marnie Lofsky, OT Reg. (Ont.) (she/her) 
Executive Director 
Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists 

Pamela Fuselli, BSc, BHA, MSc 
President and CEO 
Parachute 

Patricia Clark, BPHE 
National Executive Director 
Active Aging Canada 

Hélène Sabourin, RN, BScN, MHA 
Chief Executive Officer – Chef de la direction 
Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists/ Association canadienne des ergothérapeutes 

Leigh Vanderloo, PhD 
School of Occupational Therapy 
University of Western Ontario 

Related

246 Bloor Street W
Toronto, ON, M5S 1V4

Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work
University of Toronto

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