Friday, 30 January 2015

Accessibility in the City

Accessibility.  It’s on everyone’s minds these days and it is at the forefront of Classic Displays product development.  Over the last year we have spent a lot of time focusing on accessibility. With the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) gaining traction and a number of compliancy deadlines lined up for the coming years we wanted to ensure we understood the act, how it would affect our customers and what we could do to help them become compliant. 

A few years ago we began looking at the ergonomics of standard park benches and how they could be improved upon and in 2009 we introduced our first ergonomically correct bench, the Ergo.  Since then we have continued to add to what is now our line of accessible benches, this past year focusing on our standard line of benches and how we could modify them to make them accessible. 

One of the standards set in the AODA is for the design of public spaces, which as it currently stands, requires outdoor public eating areas to have a minimum of 20% of the tables be wheelchair accessible.  While we agree that wheelchair accessible tables should be mandatory we don’t think it should stop there. We also encourage our customer’s to consider adding accessible benches to their public spaces as well.

Fortunately, we are not the only ones that understand the importance of accessibility in public spaces and see the benefits. We have been working with the City of London for a number of years and manufacture the specified bench for their parks. In 2014 the city ordered 25 Accessible Riverside benches and will continue to order them on an as needed basis. 

Another City that has begun to embrace our accessible line of benches is the City of Toronto. Our standard Riverside bench has been the specified bench for the City for a couple of years now and it was the standard Riverside that we made some modifications to in order to make it accessible. This accessible version of the Riverside has begun to pop up alongside standard Riversides in various parks within the city. Other benches from the accessible line can also be found throughout the city, a number of Heritage benches sit outside of Metro Hall and Contour benches can be found in Nathan Phillips Square. To date the city has ordered 40 Accessible Riverside benches and over 50 other Accessible models. 

The City of Hamilton is currently working on a multiyear revitalization project of Gore Park. Another city we often work with, Hamilton took an early interest in the Heritage bench when it was first introduced to our product line. That bench has since become specified in the revitalization project.  They have also begun to introduce our Accessible Riverside line as well and to date, 23 benches have been purchased with more orders to come as the projects continue.

As accessibility continues to be our main focus in 2015, we look forward to continuing to work with the cities of London, Toronto, and Hamilton and we encourage other cities and towns to look to them as examples of how to start incorporating Accessible site furniture in outdoor public spaces. 

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Helping you Become AODA Compliant

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was implemented in 2005 and since then each part of the act is gradually becoming mandatory for any company that employs over 20 people. The act includes standards for information and communication, employment, transportation and design of public spaces.

Regulations for outdoor public eating areas fall under design of public spaces within the act and apply to tables that are found in public areas such as parks, hospital grounds and on university campuses that are intended for use by the public as a place to eat. The general requirements include the following:
  1. A minimum of 20% of tables that are provided must be accessible to persons using mobility aids by having knee and toe clearance underneath the table and in no case shall there be fewer than one table in an outdoor public use eating area that meets this requirement.
  2. The ground surface leading to and under tables that are accessible to persons using mobility aids must be level, firm and stable.
  3. Tables that are accessible to persons using mobility aids must have clear ground space around them that allows for a forward approach to the tables.

While we can’t assist you with becoming compliant with every requirement within the AODA, we can help you make your outdoor spaces accessible. Not only do we manufacture a variety of tables that meet the requirements of the AODA but we also have the installation crew that can assist with making the area around and under the tables also meet the requirements.

Accessible Tables

MODC Table
This table was designed and manufactured in partnership with the March of Dimes Canada using the standards set in the Accessible design for the built environment published by the Canadian Standards Association in 2004. With fixed seating on two sides of the table and an open area on two sides with proper knee and toe clearance for wheelchairs, this table is one of the most accessible on the market. Available in the same plastic lumber as our standard picnic tables, the MODC can easily be integrated into existing outdoor eating areas and compliment existing tables.

 Wheelchair Access 470/450 – One End or One Side
Part of the park series line of picnic tables the Wheelchair Access table comes in two different styles. The Wheelchair Access 470 is a six foot table that has a two foot table top extension on one end to allow for a wheelchair to wheel up to it with ease. The one side version of the Wheelchair Access table (450) is five feet long with seating on only one side of the table allowing a wheelchair to wheel up to the table on the other side.

Accessible Hex Table

From our standard line of picnic tables the Hex can be modified to meet the accessibility requirements. The standard table has three double seats surrounding the table; to make the table accessible to wheelchairs we replace one of the double seats with a single.  Perfect for eating areas where you want to maintain a consistent look. 

Accessible Benches

Although not a requirement within the AODA, with the push to increase accessibility and the possibility of amendments to the act, we have added a number of AODA compliant accessible benches to our existing site furniture line. Available in a variety of styles including heritage, modern and straight styles, these benches have varying accessible and ergonomic features to make them more user friendly to those wanting to transfer out of a wheelchair or someone who has back or knee problems. You can learn more about these benches in our previous blog Increase Accessibility with Accessible Seating.

When we created this line of accessible benches we were looking to the future, and we recommend our customer’s do the same. Currently, 1 in 7 people in Ontario have a disability (that’s 1.85 million Ontarians) and it’s estimated that by 2036 that number will rise to 1 in 5. With this number set to increase it only makes sense to add accessible benches to your public space so it is accessible to everyone, not just a select population. The City of Toronto as well as the City of London are acknowledging this change in the demographic and beginning to add accessible benches alongside their standard benches in their parks and on their city streets.

We advise our clients to not wait for something to become mandatory but to begin gradually making these changes over time. When a bench gets beyond repair, replace it with an accessible model or when planning a new public space add a couple of accessible benches as well. Making these changes over time will not only benefit the users of your public space but will also be much more cost effective than having to make these changes all at once.

Becoming AODA compliant may be a requirement but it’s the benefits of doing so that you should be focusing on. Making your park, commercial or retail property more accessible opens it up to a larger number of consumers which is always a good thing.