People with disabilities are experts on their own needs and can provide valuable input into the design of public spaces. Consulting people with disabilities will help designers and decision makers understand the barriers facing people with disabilities, and help them develop design solutions that better meet the needs of the local population.
Some accessibility elements make it difficult to define specific technical requirements. Either the issues are too complex to provide prescriptive standards, or possible design solutions are too varied to capture as technical standards.
As such, the Standard requires organizations to consult with people with disabilities in certain circumstances to develop design solutions that reflect local conditions and meet the needs of all users. Consultation is required when an organization plans to construct or redevelop:
- Exterior paths of travel
- Recreational trails
- Outdoor play spaces
- Accessible on-street parking
Each of these areas has specific requirements for consultation which are covered in more depth throughout the Guide as applicable.
There is no one-size-fits-all way to consult people with disabilities. The way you consult and how you determine the final design details is up to your organization.
It is important to note that the requirement to consult does not specify a particular process or way to consult — this should be determined by each organization based on its own needs.
Consultations can be conducted in a wide variety of ways and can use an organization’s existing consultation processes where they are already in place. The Standard also allows for consultations to be combined.
In order for consultations to add value to the planning and design process, they should occur as early as possible so that organizations can weigh all considerations before decisions are made and design plans are finalized.
For example, an organization can consult on rest areas, play spaces and recreational trails at the same time if it makes sense to do so. A church may consult with members who have disabilities about a new play space.
To learn more on effective strategies for consulting with people with disabilities, consider the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association’s Guide to Accessible Public Engagement and Guide to Conducting Accessible Meetings
Using an accessibility consultant in addition to consulting with people with disabilities is another way to get meaningful input on the accessibility of a project. Such consultants can provide valuable input on your design approach and strategies, as well as identify accessibility barriers that may not be obvious. Their experience and advice will also help your design to better meet the needs of the community.
Please note: Many individuals and companies are now offering consulting services on accessibility matters including compliance with the requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the standards. GAATES does not endorse any accessibility consultant, including their advice, opinions and recommendations.