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A Comprehensive Guide on Prioritizing Accessibility During New Construction

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A Comprehensive Guide on Prioritizing Accessibility During New Construction

As Canada continues to develop, constructing new buildings presents a prime opportunity to embed accessibility right from the design stage. By prioritizing inclusive design best practices during new construction projects, building owners and managers can create facilities that serve all members of the community with dignity.


Understanding Accessibility Regulations


Accessibility regulations impose specific design requirements on new construction projects as per provincial building codes and Acts like the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Mandates address elements like:


  • Barrier-free paths of travel allowing independent navigation

  • Maneuvering clearances enabling mobility device access

  • Tactile indicators demarcating hazards or decision points

  • Adaptability features future-proofing spaces for occupants' changing needs


Developers committed to inclusive design partner tactile solution experts from the project's inception. Specialists advise on strategic, code-guided solutions optimizing usability and safety for all occupants from day one.


Adopting Universal Design Principles


The most effective way to future-proof accessibility is by adopting Universal Design principles that address the needs of people of all ages and abilities from the outset. This involves:


  • Providing multiple means of navigation through tactile wayfinding solutions like surface-applied tactile tilesembedded domes, and stair nosings.

  • Ensuring equitable usability of all spaces, elements, and building amenities.

  • Implementing design features that promote unassisted independence.

  • Adopting the 7 Principles of Universal Design developed by NC State University.


Universal Design makes facilities accessible and convenient for everyone from the get-go.


Engaging Accessibility Consultants


For new construction projects, engage accessibility consultants versed in Canadian accessibility regulations like the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Ontario Building Code.


Consultants can:


  • Assist with barrier-free design in compliance with AODA, OBC, and CSA B651.

  • Specify the right tactile solutions from the project onset.

  • Review construction drawings and provide recommendations.

  • Conduct site inspections verifying accessibility.


Early consultancy streamlines new construction projects, preventing costly retrofits.


Auditing Existing Facilities


For renovations or additions to existing buildings, conduct accessibility audits to understand current compliance levels and improvement areas. Audits involve:


  • Inspecting paths of travel, clearance widths, signage placements, etc.

  • Evaluating the usability of all interior/exterior spaces, amenities, and building elements.

  • Documenting compliance gaps requiring remedies during the new works.


Audits provide a baseline to strategically scope renovation projects addressing priority compliance upgrades first for maximum early impact.


Leveraging Community Engagement


Invite advocacy groups representing persons with disabilities to conduct "Access Audits" from end-users perspectives. Their lived experience feedback is invaluable to identifying subtler compliance issues and enhancing design outcomes by respecting diverse human profiles. This fosters goodwill while improving standards long-term for all.


Prioritizing Access Elements


When phasing new construction works or renovations, focus first on:


  • Main entrances/building access points

  • Vertical circulation (ramps, lifts, stairs, call buttons, tactile maps)

  • Multi-stall washrooms

  • High-traffic common areas

  • Signage/wayfinding comprehensibly guiding movement

  • Safety features like tactile warnings of hazards


This delivers universal access impacts through the areas serving most occupants promptly.


Specifying Code-Compliant Tactile Solutions


For the highest level of accessibility assurance in newly constructed facilities, specify tactile solutions rigorously adhering to all current regulations:


1. Surface-Applied Tactile Tiles


Durable, surface-applied tactile tiles adhered onto finished paths/stair nosings guide visual navigation in interior/exterior spaces. Conduct site measurements and select ADA/AODA/CSA-compliant tile grades from reputed manufacturers like Access Tile.


2. Embedded Truncated Domes


Hazard-delineating truncated domes embedded flush during concrete pouring/flooring installation caution visual impairment. Discuss proven polymer blends attaining CSA B651 heights/spacings for optimal longevity from experts like Advantage Tactile Systems.


3. Stair Tactiles


Continuous strips of tactile stair nosings along all stairways, landings, and escalators provide essential guidance. Source photoluminescent profiles from companies like Ecoglo to maximize visibility under all lighting conditions for evacuations.


4. Photoluminescent Signage


Invest in photoluminescent exit signs and path markings from leading manufacturers to effectively direct movement during power outages as per NBC/IFC codes.


Project Documentation


Archive installation guides, product specifications, and inspection/acceptance records as proof of accessibility compliance for auditing.


Maintaining Accessibility Through Stewardship


True accessibility is a continuous commitment. Post-occupancy, maintain standards through diligent stewardship programs:


  • Conduct routine/preventative maintenance inspections verifying compliance.

  • Prepare long-term capital plans forecasting element replacements ahead of deterioration.

  • Establish channels for user/advocacy group feedback improving designs.

  • Train staff across departments, upholding accessibility as an organizational value.

  • Consider outsourcing specialty inspections to experts periodically.

  • Promptly address any issues, maintaining continuity of welcoming, dignified experiences.


Sustained accessibility investments optimize facilities as inclusive community resources for all current and future occupants.


Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What if the project encounters major structural upgrades?

A: Discuss potential staged compliance with accessibility consultants, maintaining access during construction.


Q: How do outdoor tactile products hold up against weathering?

A: Source from reputable manufacturers like Armor Tile utilizing anti-UV compounds attaining code-mandated longevity under all conditions.


Q: What accessibility standards apply to a medical clinic renovation?

A: ADA, AODA, and NBC prescribe accessibility for such "facilities for personal care services." Consult compliance experts.


Q: How can small alterations address common barriers?

A: Prioritize solutions like improved signage, lever door handles, and color/visual contrast striping to maximize access impacts cost-effectively.


Q: Which professional should manage an accessibility project?

A: Certified accessibility/barrier-free design consultants specializing in relevant codes can expertly scope, specify, review, and inspect new construction/renovation works, maintaining compliance.


Closing Out 


By adopting inclusive design best practices and working closely with accessibility experts, constructing barrier-free facilities becomes achievable and future-proofs buildings as welcoming community assets for all. Tactile Solution Canada always supports building professionals with code-compliant tactile solutions catering to every project need. Contact us today to discuss your requirements.