Read the guide about the Design of Public Spaces Standard (Part 4.1) to learn more about the technical requirements to make public spaces accessible (e.g. measurements, etc.).

Trails and beach routes

By law, you must make beach access routes and recreational trails accessible if you are:

  • a private or non-profit organization with 1+ employee(s) or a public sector organization; and
  • building new public recreational trails or beach access routes and planning to maintain them or making major changes to existing ones and planning to maintain them

Exceptions

  • wilderness trails, backcountry trails and portage routes
  • trails only meant for cross-country skiing, mountain biking or the use of motorized recreational vehicles, such as snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles
  • areas of trails where modifications for accessibility would negatively impact the ecology or heritage
  • cases where making the trail or beach access route accessible would be impossible or inappropriate – for example, where rocks bordering the route make it impossible to meet minimum width requirements
  • cases where making the trail or beach access route accessible would have a negative effect on properties protected under:
    • the Ontario Heritage Act
    • Canada National Parks Act
    • the Historic Sites and Monuments Act (Canada)
    • the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO’s) World Heritage List
  • cases where making the trail or beach access route accessible would have a negative effect on water, fish, wildlife, plants, invertebrates, species at risk, ecological integrity or natural heritage values

How to comply

  • Consult with the public and people with disabilities when building or making major changes to recreational trails. You must consult about:
    • the trail’s slope
    • the need for and location of ramps on the trail
    • the need for, location and design of rest areas, passing areas, viewing areas, amenities and other features of the trail

Municipalities must also consult with their accessibility advisory committees when building or making major changes to recreational trails.

  • For constructed paths, boardwalks and ramps:
    • meet the minimum requirements for width and head clearance
    • keep slopes within the set limits
    • ensure they comply with other technical requirements
  • For recreational trails, post the required signs at the start of the trail. Signs, brochures, web sites and other media must include:
    • the length of the trail
    • the type of surface of which the trail is constructed
    • the average and minimum width of the trail
    • the average and maximum running slope and cross slope
    • the location of amenities, where provided

For example: A municipality is constructing a new recreational trail. They consult with the public and the Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee on the slope of the trail and the location of certain features. At the same time, they take steps to ensure the trail meets the technical requirements for things like width and head clearance.

Parking

By law, you must make both on-street and off-street parking accessible if you are:

  • building new parking spaces and planning to maintain them
  • redeveloping existing parking spaces and planning to maintain them

You do not have to change your organization’s existing parking areas to comply with the law.

On-street parking

If you belong to a public sector organization, you must make new on-street parking accessible.

It includes parking spaces provided by designated public sector organizations for public use on:

  • streets
  • highways

To meet the requirement, you must consult with the public and people with disabilities on the need, location and design of accessible on-street parking spaces.

Municipalities must also consult with their accessibility advisory committees.

Off-street parking

You must make new off-street parking accessible if you are a:

  • private or non-profit organizations with 1 or more employee(s)
  • public sector organizations

It includes other parking areas created for public use, such as:

  • a parking lot for a doctor’s office
  • a shopping centre’s parking garage

To meet the requirement, you must include a minimum number of each of type of accessible parking space. Types of parking spaces include:

  • wider spaces for people who use mobility aids (e.g., wheelchairs)
  • standard-width spaces for people who use mobility-assistive devices (e.g., canes, crutches and walkers)

Include extra spaces, called access aisles, between parking spaces. The access aisles must be wide enough for people with disabilities to get in and out of their vehicles.

Clearly mark all accessible spaces with the required signage.

Exceptions to off-street parking

You do not have to meet the requirement if:

  • parking areas are not intended for public use
  • extra parking areas are not designed for people with disabilities because accessible parking is already available on the same site
  • parking areas are not located on a barrier-free path of travel (as defined under Ontario’s Building Code
  • areas are used exclusively for parking buses, delivery vehicles, law enforcement vehicles, ambulances, or impounded vehicles

If you are limited by physical constraints on the site, you must work within these constraints to comply with the requirements, as much as possible. This may mean providing fewer accessible parking spaces than required.

Service counters and waiting areas

By law, you must make both service counters and waiting areas accessible if you are:

  • a private or non-profit organization with 1+ employee(s) or a public sector organization; and
  • building new service counters, fixed waiting lines or fixed seated waiting areas or making major changes to existing service counters, fixed waiting lines or fixed seated waiting areas

You do not have to change existing service counters, waiting lines or seated waiting areas to comply with the law.

Service counters

Service counters may be desks or counter spaces where people have face-to-face conversations with staff to receive service. Some examples are reception desks, ticketing windows, foodservice counters and check-out counters. The service areas can be indoors or outdoors. To meet the accessibility requirements, you must:

  • make at least one service counter accessible to people who use mobility aids, such as wheelchairs. The area should be low enough to allow the person with a disability to interact with the person providing service. There should also be enough room under the counter for the knees of a person sitting in a wheelchair
  • make all service counters accessible if your organization has a single wait line for all of them
  • provide at least one accessible counter for each of your organization’s services (e.g., a grocery store must offer at least one accessible service counter for each of its express, self-service and regular service lanes)
  • clearly identify all your accessible service counters with signs

Fixed waiting lines

These requirements apply to fixed queuing guides or permanent fences or railings that require customers to line up and follow a set path (e.g., line up for rides at an amusement park). To meet the requirements, you must:

  • ensure the fixed waiting line is wide enough for people with disabilities to move through easily with their mobility aids (e.g., wheelchairs, scooters, canes, crutches and walkers)
  • ensure there is enough room for people using mobility aids to navigate around corners where the line changes direction
  • ensure that people using canes can find the fixed waiting line (e.g., by tapping on posts or railings set close to the ground)

Waiting areas with fixed seating

In many waiting areas, the seating is fixed to the floor (e.g., in hospitals). To meet the accessibility requirements for these areas, you must make at least 3% of all seats accessible. When creating new fixed seating areas, always provide at least one accessible seat.

For example:

  • Jason, a lawyer, plans to create a new waiting room with 6 built-in fixed seats for his clients. At least 1 seat must be accessible.
  • A large medical clinic offering several different kinds of therapies is renovating its waiting area. When complete, there will be 100 seats. At least 3 of them must be accessible.

Outdoor eating areas

By law, you must make public outdoor eating areas accessible if you are:

  • a private or non-profit organization with 50+ employees or a public sector organization; and
  • building new public outdoor eating areas with tables and planning to maintain them or making major changes to existing areas with tables and planning to maintain them

You do not have to change your organization’s existing tables to comply with the law.

Public outdoor eating areas are places located outside where members of the public can sit at a table and eat (e.g., outdoor food courts at amusement parks, picnic tables in parks, on hospital grounds or on university campuses).

How to comply

To meet this requirement, you must:

  1. determine how many new tables must be accessible
    • if you buy 1 to 9 new tables, you need to make at least 1 accessible
    • if buy 10 or more new tables, you need to make at least 20% of them accessible
  2. ensure the ground leading to and under the accessible tables is level, firm and stable
  3. provide enough clear space around and under the tables so that people using a wheelchair or other mobility aid can easily access the tables

For example: Sandra is in charge of buying picnic tables for a public park in her town. The town decides it needs to buy 7 new tables. By law, Sandra will have to make sure 1 of the 7 new tables is accessible.

Outdoor play spaces

By law, you must make outdoor play spaces accessible if you are:

  • a business or non-profit organization with 50 or more employees or a public sector organization
  • building new public outdoor play spaces and planning to maintain them or making major changes to existing spaces and planning to maintain them

You do not have to change existing outdoor play spaces.

Public outdoor play spaces include:

  • play equipment and structures (e.g., slides, swings and splash pads)
  • natural features (e.g., logs, rocks, sand or water intended for play)

How to comply

To meet the requirement, you must:

  1. consult with the public and local people with disabilities before you design and build public outdoor play spaces (municipalities must also consult with their accessibility advisory committees).
  2. enhance the play area with features that will allow children and caregivers with a wide range of abilities to play
  3. make the surface of the play space firm and stable so people using mobility devices can move around easily and prevent injuries
  4. ensure there is enough space around the play features; children and caregivers with disabilities should be able to move easily into the play areas and around play equipment

For example: A municipality is planning to build a new outdoor place space in their community. First they consult with their accessibility advisory committee and community members about what they will need in the play space.

Based on these suggestions, the town decides to include an area with a sandbox and other tactile play features. This means that children can use different senses to enjoy the play space.

Additionally, the town decides to include an area for caregivers with disabilities to sit and comfortably watch the children play.

Outdoor paths

By law, you must make public outdoor paths accessible if you are:

  • a business or non-profit organization with 50 or more employees or a public sector organization; and
  • building new paths of travel and planning to maintain them
  • making major changes to existing outdoor paths of travel and planning to maintain them

You do not have to change existing public outdoor paths of travel to comply with the law.

Examples of public outdoor paths of travel include:

  • sidewalks and walkways that serve a functional purpose, like walking to work or school
  • ramps, stairs and curb ramps that are part of public outdoor pathways (these are separate from ramps and stairs inside of buildings and do not affect the way buildings or entrances to buildings are constructed)

Exceptions

  • existing paths of travel that you are not changing, updating or maintaining
  • recreational trails not meant for pedestrians, such as bike paths
  • paths regulated by Ontario’s Building Code, such as walkways between buildings that are close together
  • the parts of paths located where conditions make it impossible to meet some or all of the requirements, such as next to a highway or other existing structure
  • cases where changes to a path would have a negative effect on properties protected under:
    • the Ontario Heritage Act
    • Canada National Parks Act
    • the Historic Sites and Monuments Act (Canada)
    • the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO’s) World Heritage List
  • cases where changes to a path would have a negative effect on water, fish, wildlife, plants, invertebrates, species at risk, ecological integrity or natural heritage values

How to comply

To meet the requirement, you must:

  1. meet the minimum requirements for width and head clearance
  2. keep slopes of sidewalks, walkways, ramps and depressed curbs within the set limits
  3. make sure the surfaces of ramps and stairs are firm, stable and slip-resistant (provide required handrails and guards to help prevent people from slipping)
  4. provide clear contrast markings and tactile walking surface indicators on stairs, curb ramps and depressed curbs
  5. install accessible pedestrian signals wherever new pedestrian crossing signals are installed at crosswalks or intersections
  6. consult with the public and people with disabilities about including rest areas along paths (e.g., benches will allow people who have difficulties walking to stop and rest). Municipalities must also consult with their accessibility advisory committees

For example:

A municipality is redeveloping a stretch of sidewalk. There is a large tree that prevents the municipality from meeting the minimum width requirement. Only the portion of the sidewalk surrounding the tree is exempt from the width requirement. This part of the sidewalk must still meet other requirements, such as head clearance and slope.

Maintaining areas

By law, you must maintain the accessible parts of your public spaces if you are:

  • a business or non-profit organization with 50+ employees
  • a public sector organization

You must have a multi-year accessibility plan in place. This plan explains how you will:

  • handle times when accessible parts of your outdoor paths of travel are not working or available
  • maintain the accessible parts of your public outdoor eating area – both regular and emergency maintenance

For example: A private parking lot operator has set aside the required number of spaces for accessible parking. Every few years, the company resurfaces the lot. During those days, the accessible parking spaces are unavailable to the public. The company’s multi-year accessibility plan says that when this happens, it will post a sign to explain the disruption and set up a temporary accessible parking area.

Accessibility in buildings

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act does not apply to buildings.

Learn more about the accessibility requirements for buildings such as entrances, ramps, elevators and washrooms in Ontario’s Building Code.

Additional accessibility rules

Your organization may have to meet additional accessibility requirements. Keep track of the past and future deadlines to comply with accessibility laws, and find out when you have to file accessibility compliance reports.