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A Comprehensive Guide to Canadian Regulations on Tactile Walking Surface Indicators

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A Comprehensive Guide to Canadian Regulations on Tactile Walking Surface Indicators

Tactile walking surface indicators (TWSI), also known as detectable warning surfaces, are textured ground surface indicators that provide important navigational cues for individuals who are blind or have low vision. In Canada, the installation of compliant TWSIs on pedestrian routes is mandated under various provincial and national accessibility regulations.


This blog provides a comprehensive overview of the key Canadian codes and standards that regulate the design and placement of TWSIs. We'll explore the most current federal, provincial, and municipal accessibility requirements across the country.


What Are Tactile Walking Surface Indicators?


TWSIs are specialized textures installed on walking surfaces to convey essential information through touch and sound to pedestrians with vision impairments. Two main types exist:

  • Warning Indicators - Also called "attention indicators," these have a distinctive pattern of truncated domes that signal potential hazards like curb edges, stairs, transit platforms, etc.
  • Guidance Indicators - These have parallel elongated bars that guide users along designated pedestrian circulation paths and spaces.


TWSIs provide critical navigational and hazard cues to individuals with visual disabilities through:

  • Tactile sensation underfoot and from canes
  • Audible feedback from canes tapping the surface
  • Visual contrast between the indicators and surrounding surfaces

When thoughtfully implemented, TWSIs enable independent and intuitive wayfinding and safety for pedestrians with vision loss.


Key Canadian Accessibility Regulations


In Canada, various regulations at the federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal levels mandate TWSI installation to create accessible public realms. Let's look at the major standards:


Federal Regulations


Canada has nationwide standards that provide baseline accessibility requirements. Key regulations include:


  • CAN/CSA B651 - Sets out technical specifications for TWSI design and placement. It covers materials, construction, installation, texture, dimensions, visual contrast, etc. Compliance ensures optimal detectability.
  • National Building Code of Canada - References the CAN/CSA B651 standard for TWSI specifications.
  • Canadian Human Rights Act - Prohibits discrimination based on disability and mandates equal access.


Provincial and Territorial Regulations


Most provinces and territories have their own accessibility laws that require TWSI installation. For example:

  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) in Ontario mandates TWSIs at all new and redeveloped public spaces.
  • The Manitoba Accessibility Act requires municipalities to implement accessibility plans, including installing TWSIs where needed.

Municipal By-Laws

Many cities have additional by-laws and design standards for TWSIs. For instance:

  • City of Toronto Accessibility Design Guidelines prescribe detailed TWSI requirements for municipal facilities and public rights-of-way.
  • Calgary Access Design Standards regulate the location and technical specifications of TWSIs in city infrastructure.


So, in addition to nationwide standards, provincial, territorial, and civic regulations can impose localized TWSI requirements that contractors must adhere to.


Key Locations for Warning and Guidance TWSIs


Both warning and guidance TWSIs play vital roles in public realm accessibility and must be installed at key locations, including:

Warning TWSIs:

  • Along platform edges 
  • At curb ramps and depressed curbs
  • At stair landings and escalator approaches
  • Where a pedestrian route crosses into a vehicular route
  • At unprotected drop-offs or sloped walkway edges

Guidance TWSIs:

  • Along interior and exterior designated pedestrian circulation paths
  • At transit platforms to guide passengers to boarding zones
  • In large open public spaces like plazas, parks, and stadiums
  • Across open areas lacking shorelines like ponds or reflecting pools
  • At complex intersections, roundabouts, or skewed crossings


Technical Specifications for Compliant TWSIs


TWSIs must adhere to strict technical requirements outlined in various Canadian codes and standards to ensure proper detectability and functionality. Key specifications include:

  • Constructed of durable, slip-resistant material like concrete, stone, metal, or engineered composite
  • The high visual contrast between 70-100% with adjacent surfaces through colour and tone
  • Standardized sizing of domes or bars with proper spacing between raised elements
  • Domes/bars projected between 4mm and 5mm above the surrounding surface
  • Bevelled edges to prevent tripping hazards between tiles and ground
  • Reflective properties for visibility at nighttime or dark conditions

By meeting these specifications, TWSIs will reliably signal key cues through touch and sound when tapped by canes or stepped on by pedestrians. Compliant TWSIs optimize accessibility and safety.




Q: What are some key disabilities that benefit from TWSIs?


A: TWSIs primarily aid those with low vision or legal blindness but also assist users with cognitive or physical disabilities.


Q: Where are guidance TWSIs commonly required under Canadian regulations?


A: Guidance TWSIs are mandated along interior/exterior circulation paths, transit platforms, open public spaces, recreational trails, etc.


Q: What materials can be used to build compliant TWSIs?


A: Durable options like concrete, stone, metal, engineered plastics, porcelain, and rubber can be used if properly designed.


Q: How do Canadian provinces mandate TWSIs?


A: Through provincial accessibility acts that require TWSIs at new and renovated public facilities and infrastructure.


Q: How do Canadian municipalities require TWSIs?


A: Through by-laws, facility accessibility design standards, and public realm master plans at civic infrastructure.




As Canada's population ages and diversifies, creating inclusive infrastructure that accommodates users of all abilities grows increasingly important. Implementing proper TWSIs under Canadian regulations is a key strategy for crafting accessible, barrier-free public realms.


With its rich experience supplying compliant TWSI solutions across Canada, Tactile Solution Canada is the ideal partner for accessibility projects of all sizes. Their extensive product range includes systems from leading manufacturers like Armor Tile®, Access Tile® Systems, Advantage® Tactile Systems, Ecoglo® and Elan® Tiles.


With solutions customizable to any application, Tactile Solution Canada can recommend the optimal TWSIs to fulfil your specific accessibility goals while meeting all pertinent Canadian codes and standards. Contact their experts today to make your next public project genuinely accessible to all citizens.