Accessibility – Why Is It Important?

Hey Everyone!  Wanted to thank you for stopping by and checking out our blog!  This is our first post of many!  Our goal is to use this platform to share articles, talk about new products and innovations, and discuss various construction projects with a focus on accessibility.

Accessibility and safety products are often an overlooked part of construction (in both the planning and building stages).  As a supplier we often get the last minute emergency calls to see what products they can use as products were missed on the drawings.  Sometimes a building inspector noticed something that is required for sing-offs & approvals that were missed.  Depending on the stage of construction we sometimes have to offer a lesser performing product (or a more costly solution) because they weren’t addressing during the initial construction.  This means finding a retrofit option, or sometimes having to remove and re-do sections which is very labor and cost intensive.

We do get asked fairly regularly “why” do we need these products on this project.  How many people will really benefit from having these in or around the building.  One thing to remember is disabilities come in many forms, some are more visible than others. Statistics Canada records and monitors 10 types of disabilities: seeing, hearing, mobility, flexibility, dexterity, pain-related, learning, developmental, mental-health related and memory.  These disabilities take on all types of forms, and many are not immediately apparent by looking at someone.  Each one of these disability types may require their own accommodations, while some types of disabilities one solution may resolve a difficulty.  One example we can all relate to is door knobs/handles.  Having a circular knob on a door can be very difficult for people with disabilities (seeing, mobility, flexibility, dexterity and pain-related) would all fall in this category.  Having a handle where it doesn’t require someone to grip & twist can be a huge benefit. Someone can push a handle upwards or downwards without needing to make a fist to open a door is significantly easier than a knob.  This not only benefits people with disabilities, but able-bodied people as well.  When was the last time you had bags and boxes and you were trying to juggle them while opening up a door?  The best part is when planned appropriately there is NO COST DIFFERENCE.  Being more accessible doesn’t necessarily cost more in terms of materials or installation, but it does generally require a little more thought & planning.

We have to remember that the reality of today isn’t always the same as tomorrow. Disabilities can affect people in different stages of life.  Some people were born with disabilities and have had to navigate accessibility challenges their entire lives.  Others may have had an accident or developed a condition later in life that changes what they can do or how they can do it.  Often this requires needing to re-learn how to do something in a different way.

Easter Seals Canada has a facts page about disabilities in Canada which illustrates the importance of accessibility.  According to Statistics Canada from 2017 more than 6.2 million Canadians live with some type of disability.  Of the 6.2 million 43% of disabilities are classified as severe or very severe.  The Ontario chamber of commerce reported that Canadians living with disabilities have purchasing power of 55 billion dollars annually.

Statistics Canada did a study in 2017 and there are over 645,000 Canadians with some form of disability that has the potential of working but are not employed.  Some of this is related to requiring accommodations within the workplace environment, some comes down to stigmas of disabilities.  From a 2021 Canadian census survey over 861,000 Canadians were 85 years or older.  By the year 2046 that number is estimated that Canada could have 2.5 million people over 85.

Very clearly there is a need to improve and ensure that our businesses, restaurants, community centres etc. are accessible to everyone.  Not only is improving accessibility the right thing to do socially, from an economic standpoint there are benefits as well.  Take all this into account, plus a growing aging population and this will be more important as the years go by.  Ensuring that accessibility & barrier free design is taken into account will benefit everyone as a whole.

We hope that you will find this section as a good resource to learn & understand more about accessibility and ways to integrate it into your business, construction projects and daily practice/lives.  Check back often as we will be posting content regularly!

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