Standards help build a barrier-free Canada

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More than six million Canadians live with a disability.¹ In everyday life, they may have fewer options when accessing transportation services, communicating with others, or interacting with aspects of the built environment. Incorporating the principles of accessibility helps ensure  people with disabilities can have the same experience as any other person, whether in a public venue or at home. Removing barriers and enabling universal access can create a safe and comfortable place for everybody.

Accessibility is generally recognized as an important element of architectural design practice.² Over the past two decades, municipalities, provinces, and territories across the country developed various policies, guidelines, and codes aiming to improve accessibility of public buildings and spaces, as well as dwellings. While there is still a lot of work to do, things like automatic doors, ramps, wider corridors to accommodate wheeled mobility devices, and universal washrooms are now common. CSA Group standards can assist stakeholders seeking to support accessibility efforts and help people with disabilities participate in their communities and live to their full potential.

Accessibility and inclusivity of the built environment

The first edition of the CSA Group standard CSA B651 was published under the title, Barrier-free Design, in 1990 (now published as CSA/ASC B651, Accessible Design for the Built Environment) and brought requirements that may seem basic today but were dramatic at the time. Installing ramps at the main entrances, widening doors, adding contrasting nosings to stairs, handrail extensions, or expanding washroom stalls were just a few features that helped improve overall access to public and private spaces for people with disabilities.

CSA B651 impacts not only how buildings are designed and built but also how various products are manufactured, so they can be used inside accessible buildings. Since its first edition, the standard has evolved significantly. For example, later updates aimed to provide better guidance on elements serving the spatial requirements of people with hearing, vision, or other communication disabilities.

New requirements and recommendations for buildings

Many requirements of the CSA B651 standard resulted from consultations with people living with disabilities, their perspectives, and experiences. These were also the case in the development of the 2023 edition of the standard, CSA/ASC B651:23. With the participation of people with disabilities and collaboration with the Accessibility Standards Canada (ASC), volunteer members of the CSA Group Technical Committee on Accessibility developed and updated numerous technical requirements and recommendations to make buildings and the exterior built environment accessible and safe for those with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities. CSA/ASC B651:23 supports universal design principles (i.e. designing environments so all people can access, understand, and use them to the greatest extent possible, regardless of their age, size, ability, or disability).

Among the important changes introduced in the 2023 edition of the standard are updates of various dimensions based on current anthropometric research. The standard’s informative annex provides more details on the anthropometrics of mobility aid users, including reach ranges for a person in a wheeled mobility device, walkway width for people using crutches, walkers, or being accompanied by a service animal. The annex also provides detection space for people using a long white cane and dimensions of wheeled manual and powered mobility devices and their turning areas.

The new edition of the standard also provides a detailed explanation of luminance (colour) contrast and provides guidance on minimum contrast for general surfaces, glossy or shiny surfaces such as brushed stainless steel.

Further, CSA/ASC B651:23 updates guidance on functional and cognitive barriers, recommending designing spaces with simple and logical layouts with consistent features; for example, the same location of washrooms on each floor. Designers should also consider measures to avoid excessive noise interferences and implementation of improved lighting inside buildings and in the exterior environment.

Find more information about the new and updated requirements and recommendations of CSA/ASC B651:23 on the CSA Store.

All information listed in this section was submitted by CSA Group.
Kenilworth Media Inc. and Construction Specifications Canada (CSC) cannot assume responsibility for errors of relevance,
fact or omission. The publisher nor CSC does not endorse any products featured in this article.

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