Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

New provincial laws have recently been proclaimed as part of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), under Part IV.1 of O.Reg 191/11 on the built environment. By January 1, 2016 the City of Toronto must comply for all newly constructed or redeveloped infrastructure. This briefing note summarizes the key requirements – the main change being raised profile tactile walking surface indicators at the bottom edge of curb ramps and depressed curbs. This note aims to raise awareness and support implementation of the new accessibility standards for public spaces (such as sidewalks, walkways, stairs, and curb ramps) as required by the Government of Ontario.

City of Toronto – Briefing Note on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (herein referred to as AODA) section on the Design of Public Spaces Standards (Accessibility Standards for the Built Environment)

For an illustrated version of this briefing note please click here.

Dated April 19, 2013

Issue and Background

In December 2012 the Province of Ontario proclaimed the Design of Public Spaces Standards (Accessibility Standards for the Built Environment), Part IV.1 of Ontario Regulation 191/11, Integrated Accessibility Standards (herein referred to as the Standard). The regulation is law as of January 2013 and governs the provision of public infrastructure including sidewalks, walkways, stairs, curb ramps, tactile walking surfaces, pedestrian signals and parking spaces. A standard for interior spaces is still in development and will be integrated into the Ontario Building Code.

The Standard applies to all newly constructed or redeveloped infrastructure and the City of Toronto must be in compliance by January 1, 2016.

Accessibility of the built environment is a critical issue in Toronto, particularly in light of the city's aging population. Ensuring that public transportation infrastructure can be used by everyone supports inclusion and the social and economic participation of all residents and visitors. The Standard makes mandatory a number of guidelines in the existing 2004 City of Toronto Accessibility Design Guidelines (herein referred to as the city's accessibility guidelines), and modifies others.

General Points

The Standard does not apply to infrastructure that is regulated under the Building Code (Ontario Regulation 350/06).

Off-street parking at all City facilities for City staff will need to conform to the Standard's Accessible Parking requirements (O. Reg. 191/11 Part IV.I 80.32-80.38). Guidance on this issue will be provided on a City-wide basis.

Where City of Toronto accessibility guidelines exceed the requirements of the Standard they should be followed.

Note: Please refer to the Ontario Regulation 191/11 for details: www.e-laws.gov.on.ca.

This briefing note is for general information only and not for detailed design purposes.

Exterior Paths of Travel – Sidewalks/Walkways/Paths (O. Reg. 191/11 Part IV.I 80.23)

Under the Standard sidewalks must have firm, stable and slip resistant surfaces and any openings in the surface must be perpendicular to the direction of travel and must not allow the passage of objects greater than 20mm in diameter. A minimum clear width of 1500mm is required, but it can be reduced to 1200mm when the path connects with a curb ramp. 

Current City accessibility guidelines indicate that 1675mm is the recommended minimum clearway width and that surface openings should have a maximum diameter of 13mm.

The running slope of any exterior route must be a maximum of 1:20, with the exception of sidewalks that cannot be steeper than the adjacent roadway. These requirements align with current City accessibility guidelines. The cross-slope of any hard surfaced route must be 1:20 or less. The Standard provides additional guidance on the allowable slopes for sections of route that change level (80.23.8).

Please refer to the Ontario Regulation 191/11 for details: www.e-laws.gov.on.ca.

Entrances with gates or bollards must provide a minimum clear opening of 850mm.

Curb Ramps – Exterior paths of travel, curb ramps (O. Reg. 191/11  Part IV.I.80.26)/ Exterior Paths of travel, depressed curbs (O. Reg. 191/11  Part IV.I.80.27)

The Standard distinguishes between curb ramps that are cut through the curb or built up to a curb, and depressed curbs that are seamless gradual slopes usually found at intersections where pedestrian travel routes transition across roadways.

Depressed curbs should align with the direction of travel and should not exceed a slope of 1:20.

Curb ramps must have a minimum clear width of 1200mm exclusive of the flared sides, but the City's accessibility guidelines' recommendation of 1500mm clear width should be followed where possible. 

City of Toronto accessibility guidelines state that the provision of a clear and level landing should be a minimum depth of 1500mm (and no less than 1065mm) at the top of the curb ramp/depressed curb.

Note that sidewalks need to have a clear space with no obstacles that is greater than 2100mm where there are many people walking or activity such as waiting at transit stops, seating at patios, or other street-level retail uses. Such sidewalk zones may range from 4000m to 6000m to accommodate safe, comfortable and accessible pedestrian travel and activity.

The maximum running slope of curb ramps is 1:8 (where elevation is less than 75mm) and 1:10 (where 75mm or greater). The cross slope cannot exceed 1:50. Under the Standard the flared sides of the curb ramp must have a maximum slope of 1:10.

Where curb ramps or depressed curbs are provided at pedestrian crossings they must have tactile walking surface indicators. The indicators must have raised tactile profiles with a high tonal contrast to the adjacent surface. They should be located at the bottom of the ramp and be set back between 150mm and 200mm from the curb edge, and be a minimum of 610mm in depth. The indicators must extend the full width of curb ramps. These tactile walking surface indicator requirements supersede the previous City's accessibility guidelines' guidance on cane detectable textures.

For more details on raised tactile profile indicators, please consult the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) 2012 edition of B651-12 Accessible Design for the Built Environment.  For copyright reasons, the CSA cannot be reproduced in this document.

Ramps - Exterior Paths of Travel, Ramps (O. Reg. 191/11 Part IV.I 80.24)

Ramps must have firm, stable and slip resistant surfaces and any openings in the surface must not allow the passage of objects greater than 20mm in diameter and elongated openings must be perpendicular to the direction of travel. A minimum clear width of 900mm is required on ramps. City's accessibility guidelines further specify that ramps should be a maximum width of 1100mm to allow users to grasp handrails on both sides if necessary.

Continuously graspable handrails must be provided on both sides along the entire length of the ramp. Criteria for handrail graspability and load bearing requirements, along with specifications for handrail mounting are provided in section 80.24.7 of the Standard. 

Where the ramp is more than 2200mm wide, a compliant intermediate handrail must be installed so there is no more than 1650mm between handrails.  The City's accessibility guidelines suggest a minimum of 1015mm between handrails.

A more stringent maximum running slope of 1:15 is permitted by the Standard rather than the 1:12 slope maximum suggested by the Accessibility Guideline.

Landings, 1670mm by 1670mm, must be provided at the top and bottom of the ramp and if there is an abrupt change in direction, landings must also be provided at 9m intervals along the ramp that are 1670mm long and at least the width of the ramp. The landing requirements are the same as the recommendations in the City's accessibility guidelines. The landing cross slope must not be steeper than 1:50.

The ramp must have a wall or guard on both sides.  When a guard is provided it must be at least 1070mm tall from the ramp surface.  Additional guidance on ramp guards is provided in Section 80.24.9.  Ramps must also have edge protection when no solid enclosure or guard is provided, for example, a curb at least 50mm tall or railing or other barrier that extends to within 50mm of the ramp surface.

Stairs – Exterior paths of travel, stairs (AODA Part IV.I.80.25)

Stairs must have slip resistance surfaces, closed risers, and uniform rises and runs in any one flight.  As currently suggested by the City's accessibility guidelines, stair nosings must now have a high tonal contrast marking along the full length of the leading edge of each step.

The dimension requirements for successive rises and runs are compatible with the current City's accessibility guidelines, and allow rises between 125mm and 180mm, and runs between 280mm and 355mm. Stair nosings should not project more than 38mm.

At the top of all flights of stairs, and starting one step away from the edge of the stair, tactile walking surface indicators must be installed to a minimum depth of 610mm that have raised tactile profiles with a high tonal contrast to the adjacent surface. City's accessibility guidelines to provide 915mm depth of tactile indicators should be followed where possible.

Compliant handrails must be provided on both sides of the stairs. Where the stairs are more than 2200mm in width, compliant intermediate handrails must be provided so there is no more than 1650mm between handrails.

Pedestrian Signals – Exterior paths of travel, accessible pedestrian signals (AODA Part IV.I.80.28)

Where new pedestrian signals are being installed or existing pedestrian signals are being replaced at pedestrian crossovers they must be accessible pedestrian signals. 

Accessible pedestrian signals must have a locator tone distinct from the walk tone and include both manual and automatic activation features.  They must be installed within 1500mm of the edge of the curb and a maximum of 1100mm above the ground. Accessible pedestrian signals must include both audible and vibro-tactile indicators.

 Where two signals are required on the same corner they must be a minimum of 3000mm apart, unless site constraints prevent it, in which case they can be installed on a single pole with a verbal announcement that clearly indicates which crossing is active.

Current City's accessibility guidelines on the required volume of signal tones and crossing times to meet the needs of limited mobility users should also be followed.

On-street Parking – On-street parking spaces (AODA Part IV.I. 80.39)

When constructing or redeveloping existing on-street parking spaces the Standard stipulates that consultations are required.  The City must consult on the need, location and design of accessible on-street parking spaces with its municipal accessibility advisory committee and the public and persons with disabilities. City's accessibility guidelines on the dimensions and signage of accessible parking spaces should also be followed.


Exceptions when claimed apply only the portion of the exterior path for which they are applied, not the path in its entirety.

Exceptions are permitted when complying with the Standard would conflict with the Ontario Heritage Act, Canada National Parks Act (Canada), Historic Sites and Monuments Act (Canada), Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

Exceptions are also permitted where it is not practical to comply due to site constraints. If it is not practical to comply with the Standard's requirements due to existing physical or site constraints, Transportation Services staff should document the constraints in order to be able to demonstrate that an exemption is required.

For further details please consult the AODA Design of Public Spaces Standards (Accessibility Standards for the Built Environment), Part IV.1 of Ontario Regulation 191/11 at this website: www.e-laws.gov.on.ca

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