A barrier-free path of travel must extend from a barrier-free entrance into and throughout all normally occupied floor areas (some exemptions apply), and is permitted to consist of:
- a ramp;
- a passenger elevating device; or
- an elevator.
Elevators are only required in high buildings, as defined in Subsection 3.2.6 of NBC, and select care and treatment major occupancies. However, elevators tend to be the preferred option when providing a barrier-free path of travel between floor levels.
This path of travel is the basis of a design; it is what allows people to manoeuvre into, throughout, and out of a building. Building codes require the path of travel to be between 920 and 1100 mm (36 to 43 in.) wide, whereas accessibility standards and guidelines suggest it should be 1500 mm (59 in.) wide or more (Figure 2). Figure 3 indicates various widths of barrier-free paths of travel.
For best practice, all barrier-free paths of travel should take into consideration a minimum 1500- to 1800-mm (59-to 71-in.) width if the level of building traffic is anticipated to be high. A ‘high-traffic area’ could be defined as a floor area with an occupant load of more than 200 people; for example, a rapid-transit station, or a concourse serving multi-level interconnected office buildings.
Best practice would be installing directional tactile indicators (e.g. colour-contrasting floor or ground material with raised linear bars) along a barrier-free path of travel to help individuals with low to no vision find key building components such as information desks, elevators, stairs, and rooms. One may also use colour-contrasting floor materials to differentiate seating or waiting areas from the main barrier-free path of travel.
Headroom clearances and projections
A cane-detectable barrier or guard must be provided within 680 mm (27 in.) above the finished floor (AFF) to help individuals with low to no vision navigate around potential hazards. Hazardous areas may include those where:
- the headroom clearance is reduced to less than 1980 mm (78 in.); or
- there is a projection into the path of travel exceeding 100 mm (4 in.).
For more esthetically pleasing cane-detectable barrier options, it is possible to use furniture or planters.
A barrier-free path of travel must typically incorporate unobstructed floor areas (lay-by spaces) at 30-m (98-ft) intervals, with the intent to permit wheelchair users to pass one another and/or provide a resting opportunity outside the required barrier-free path of travel (Figures 4 and 5).
Lay-by spaces can be increased in size to accommodate resting areas with seating (e.g. bench-style seat with at least one armrest). A bench-style seat is capable of accommodating people of all sizes, and can further accommodate a wheelchair side transfer. The provision of an armrest also assists individuals in sitting and standing.
Tactile attention indicators
Some building codes will require tactile attention indicators (TAIs)—colour-contrasting floor/ground material with raised truncated domes—to be installed to identify changes in elevation, tops of stair landings, and places where vehicular pathways are at the same level as a barrier-free path of travel. TAIs are required to be of a certain depth (typically 300 to 610 mm [12 to 24 in.] or greater), and must extend the entire length of the hazard (e.g. full width of a stair). It is best practice to install them at the tops of ramp landings and curb ramps. Figure 6 provides an example of TAIs at the tops of stair landings.