City of Toronto

What is Accessibility?

"Accessibility" is

A general term used to describe the degree of ease that something (e.g. device, service environment) can be used and enjoyed by persons with a disability. The term implies conscious planning, design and/or effort to ensure it is barrier-free to persons with a disability, and by extension, highly useable and practical for the general population as well.

What is a "disability"?

Under the AODA and Ontario Human Rights Code, a disability includes:

  1. any degree of physical disability caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness. Examples may include diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, paralysis, vision or hearing loss;
  2. a condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability;
  3. a learning disability;
  4. a mental disorder; or
  5. an injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.

What is a "barrier"?

The AODA defines a "barrier" as anything that prevents a person with a disability from fully participating in all aspects of society because of his or her disability.

Barriers may include physical, architectural and attitudinal barriers as well as information or communications barriers, technological barriers, or a policy, procedure or practice.

Examples of barriers

Attitudinal barriers is perhaps the most difficult barrier to overcome. Some people may feel that they could offend the individual with a disability by offering help, or they ignore or avoid people with disabilities altogether.

Architectural or structural barriers may result from design elements of a building such as stairs, doorways, the width of hallways and even room layout.

Information and communication barriers can make it difficult for people to receive or convey information. Things like small print size, low colour contrast between text and background, confusing design of printed materials and the use of language that isn't clear or easy to understand can all cause difficulty.

Technology barriers can prevent people from accessing information. Everyday tools like computers, telephones and other aids can all present barriers if they are not set up or designed with accessibility in mind.

Systemic barriers can occur through an organization's policies, practices and procedures if they restrict people with disabilities, often unintentionally - for example, denying access to a person with a service animal.

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