1.8 Are there any exceptions?

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The Accessibility Standard for the Design of Public Spaces establishes minimum requirements for all organizations to meet. At the same time, flexibility is built in to the requirements to give organizations the ability to respond to specific local needs and conditions.

Recognizing that there are sometimes existing site constraints and other considerations associated with constructing or redeveloping public spaces, the regulation identifies situations where exceptions may be made.

Organizations must ultimately determine if their circumstances require an exception, but they should be able to provide:

  • proof that it was necessary; and
  • a rationale explaining why they did not meet a requirement, on request.

The regulation specifically addresses the following exceptions:

A. Impact on Wildlife, the Environment and Cultural Heritage

Public spaces should be developed in a manner that maximizes accessibility for people with disabilities while minimizing impacts on wildlife, the environment and cultural heritage.

For example, recreational trails, beach access routes, or exterior paths of travel may not be able to meet an accessibility requirement if their construction would directly or indirectly have a negative effect on:

B. Existing Site Constraints

Existing site constraints may prevent parts of a project from complying with some accessibility requirements. The regulation allows for such exemptions. Examples might include:

  • An existing pedestrian bridge is located along a recreational trail that is being redeveloped; the bridge is sloped at 1:8 (12.5%) which is steeper than allowed by the Standard. The trail redevelopment proceeds based on consultation and information is provided through trailhead signage on the gradient so that people can anticipate the slope when using the trail.
  • Existing trees are located on a city sidewalk that is being redeveloped; the trees limit the available sidewalk width to less than the 1,500 mm required by the Standard. The sidewalk width is reduced to 900 mm only at the trees. All other aspects of the sidewalk are designed to comply with the Standard.
  • A new parking lot is planned adjacent to a park area which is steeply sloped; the slope of the site makes it impossible to create an accessible route that meets the requirements from the parking lot to an existing viewing outlook. A walkway is constructed with sections that are sloped steeper than required by the Standard. All other aspects of the walkway are designed to meet the Standard’s requirements.
  • An outdoor picnic area with 12 tables is planned for a natural rocky location that overlooks a waterfall; insufficient space is available that is level enough to make at least 20% of the tables accessible. Two accessible tables are provided instead of the three required by the Standard.


Illustrated Technical Guide to the Design of Public Spaces