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Planning for Barrier-Free Municipalities

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  Cover image of the handbook: Planning for Barrier-Free Municipalities
  1. Introduction – Purpose of the Handbook
  2. What Is a Barrier-Free Municipality?
  3. Examples of Typical Barriers
  4. Planning for Accessible Municipalities: Establishing the Policy Framework
  5. Planning for Barrier-Free Municipalities: Implementing the Framework
  6. Technology and Communications
  7. Municipal Best Practices and Examples
  8. Conclusion
  9. Self-Assessment Questionnaire
  10. Glossary
  11. Where To Get More Information
  12. References
  13. Internet References

1 Introduction – Purpose of the Handbook

A woman pushing a baby carriage and a man walking with a walking stick along a paved walkway.

Planning for Barrier-Free Municipalities is designed to raise awareness among municipalities, planning boards and the development industry about accessibility for people with disabilities in planning and development decisions affecting public facilities and outdoor public spaces.

This handbook gives suggestions for municipalities to develop barrier-free policies and options that will suit their local circumstances and resources. The goal is to assist and encourage municipalities to implement local initiatives that remove existing barriers and create more accessible communities. This would include the preparation of accessibility plans and the establishment of an accessibility advisory committee, which are requirements of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 (ODA).

The ODA aims to improve opportunities for people with disabilities and get them involved in the identification, removal and prevention of barriers so that they can fully participate in everyday activities.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) received Royal Assent on June 13, 2005. Under the Act, the Government of Ontario is developing mandatory accessibility standards that will identify, remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities in key areas of daily living:

  • Customer service
  • Transportation
  • Information and communications
  • Built environment
  • Employment. 

The standards will apply to all provincially-regulated sectors across Ontario - including both public and private organizations.

For up-to-date information regarding standards developed under the AODA, please visit the Ministry of Community and Social Services website.The ODA remains in force until it is repealed.

The Planning Act and Accessibility

Accessibility is a provincial interest.

I. Section 2 of the Planning Act, requires decision makers under the Act to have regard to accessibility for persons with disabilities to all facilities, services and matters to which the Act applies.

II. Paragraph 1 of subsection 41(4), subparagraph 2(f) of subsection 41(4) and paragraph 4.1 of clause 41(7) (a) of the Planning Act makes provisions for accessibility for persons with disabilities as part of the site plan process.

III. Subclause 41(8) (a) (v) of the Planning Act provides for a possible requirement under site plan approval of facilities that are designed to have regard for accessibility for persons with disabilities where the land abuts a highway under the jurisdiction of the upper-tier municipality.

IV. Subsection 51(24) of the Planning Act requires that, in considering a draft plan of subdivision, regard shall be had to accessibility for persons with disabilities.

V. Subsection 53(12) of the Planning Act requires that in reviewing applications for consent to sever property, regard shall be had to accessibility for persons with disabilities.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 (PPS, 2005) and Accessibility Section 1.0 Building Strong Communities sets out the policies relating to efficient land use and development patterns. The statement provides policies regarding:

  • Improving accessibility for persons with disabilities and the elderly by removing and/or preventing land use barriers which restrict their full participation in society (1.1.1(f)); and
  • Permitting and facilitating all forms of housing to meet the social, health and well- being requirements of current and future residents, including those with special needs(1.4.3(b)) 

The definition of “Special Needs” in the PPS, 2005 provides examples of “special needs" including, but not limited to, housing for persons with disabilities such as physical, sensory or mental health disabilities, and housing for the elderly.

The Ontario Human Rights Code

The Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) states that every person in Ontario has the right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of a disability. The OHRC applies to all sectors, including municipal facilities and public spaces discussed in this handbook.

How to use the Handbook

This handbook deals with outdoor spaces, especially those owned and maintained by municipalities. However, the principles of barrier-free design can apply to all facets of municipal life. This handbook can be used together with the Ontario Building Code (which regulates the construction of new facilities, renovations, and specific outdoor facilities), and other standards set out by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), or other legislation or standards where applicable.

Self-Assessment Questionnaire

A woman standing at a cut curb with a baby carriage.The handbook also includes a self-assessment questionnaire that municipal officials and staff can complete to help determine the Accessibility Quotient of their municipalities. The questionnaire may help a municipality to assess its present status in various areas of municipal service delivery, including the land use planning and development process, infrastructure design and maintenance.

Definitions for many of the terms being discussed can be found in the Glossary.

This document is available in alternate formats upon request, and on the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website.

2 What Is a Barrier-Free Municipality?

A barrier-free municipality is one that successfully strives to prevent and remove all barriers in order to promote equal opportunity and participation by residents and visitors with disabilities.

Barriers may include:

  • physical barriers, such as stairs, uneven pavement or narrow pathways
  • architectural barriers
  • information or communication barriers, such as a publication that is not available in large print
  • attitudinal barriers, such as assuming that a person with a disability cannot perform a certain task
  • technological barriers, such as traffic signals that change too quickly or meeting rooms without assistive listening systems for people who are hard of hearing
  • policy or practices, such as not offering different ways to complete a test as part of a job interview.

Universal Design and Barrier-Free Design

Universal design creates environments that respond to the needs of the population to the greatest extent possible. It is an evolution from accessible or barrier-free design to one that is even more inclusive. While barrier-free design refers to specific solutions for specific disabilities, universal design acknowledges that people come in various sizes and have various strengths and abilities (City of Winnipeg, Universal Design Policy, October 2001).

Universal Design and Barrier-Free Design is Increasingly Important

There are approximately 1.85 million people in Ontario with disabilities. This number is expected to grow as the population ages.

Universal design will likely, therefore, be an increasingly important component of municipal administration, land use planning and development decisions.

Universal Design is Cost Efficient

Building more accessible municipal infrastructure, public facilities and transportation systems may not add to building costs if universal design is incorporated in the initial stages of planning and development. Retrofitting existing infrastructure and buildings, however, can be more expensive. From the perspective of cost-efficiency and accountability, incorporating accessibility design into planning and infrastructure development processes will generally save resources over the long-term.

3 Examples of Typical Barriers

A barrier is anything that stops a person with a disability from fully taking part in society because of that disability. Some examples of barriers found in outdoor environments in municipalities include:

  • curb cuts, ramps and railway crossings that are too steep or not properly maintained, or contain abrupt changes in slope
  • lack of accessible parking spaces – size of spaces, location, number and enforcement of accessible parking spaces
  • lack of textural changes and colour contrasts for staircases, entrances, ramps and curb cuts
  • lack of snow clearance on a priority basis near hospitals and clinics, at intersections and transit stops and at public facilities
  • insufficient number of drop-off/pick-up areas for paratransit users
  • lack of audible traffic signals at key intersections
  • inadequate lighting that can cause a problem for people with vision loss
  • confusing signs that prevent people from getting the information they need
  • physical barriers created by business advertisements or patios on narrow walkways and other public spaces.

By contrast, the barrier-free goal would be to make infrastructure and public spaces such as intersections, parks, recreational facilities and other public meeting areas fully accessible to people with all types of disabilities.

4 Planning for Accessible Municipalities: Establishing the Policy Framework

Planning a barrier-free municipality generally involves establishing a policy framework and supporting administrative structures that promote access through universal design from the beginning of the development process. This section outlines some helpful ideas on how local planning and other municipal departments can improve the overall level of accessibility in municipalities so that the interests of people with disabilities are included in the planning and development process.

Promoting Barrier-Free and Universal Design in the Planning Process

Before the ODA came into effect, promoting barrier-free design was left largely to municipalities to undertake. Some municipalities included policy direction in their official plans, while others set up committees of council and prepared local accessibility guidelines and procedures. The ODA requires all public bodies in Ontario to act.

Section 7 of the handbook provides examples of pre-ODA policies and procedures that municipalities prepared and implemented through their planning and development process. Some post-ODA examples of what municipalities are doing to ensure accessibility are also included. This information may serve as guidelines for municipalities as they prepare and update accessibility plans under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

City of Guelph:

The City of Guelph continues to make their city barrier-free. The City released their 2005 Facility Accessibility Design Manual, which outlines accessibility requirements of new facilities as well as the retrofit and alteration of, or addition to, existing ones. The design manual incorporates the belief of universal design that recognizes the broad diversity of people who use facilities. In order to keep current, the Wellington Accessibility Partnership will review and/or update the document every 3-5 years to stay current with technology and design standards.

City of Windsor:

The City of Windsor created Accessibility Standards, a document approved by Council in 2006. The standards serve as guidelines for the accommodation of a variety of disabilities. The document assists architects, engineers, designers, builders and contractors in the construction and modification of barrier-free buildings.

Accessibility Plans and Advisory Committees

The ODA requires all municipalities to complete an annual accessibility plan. Municipalities with 10,000 or more people must also establish an accessibility advisory committee. The committee may request to review site plans and drawings, as described in Section 41 of the Planning Act, that are submitted to support applications. Municipal councils must supply such plans and drawings in a timely manner.

Interdepartmental Cooperation

It is recommended that staff from different departments of the municipality work together to identify what resources and assistance are available, and ensure constant dialogue between departments. For example, if a municipality is considering the installation of audible traffic signals (ATS), the planning, engineering, public works and transportation staff, as well as a local accessibility advisory committee, should preferably work together to ensure the appropriate intersections are targeted, and the most appropriate technology is used.

It is recommended that barrier-free features are included in the design and planning stages of new construction and redevelopment projects. Municipalities, through the appropriate departments, may consider working with the proponents throughout the approvals process to suggest that universal design be incorporated in public spaces, transportation facilities and services, as well as public and private infrastructure.

Involving Community Groups and Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees

Ongoing collaboration between planners, accessibility advisory committees and community groups is important to ensure all parties concerned have an opportunity to provide their input or ideas during each stage of the planning process.

Community outreach is essential because people with disabilities face many barriers to participation. To help reach people with disabilities, municipalities should consult with local organizations and groups for people with disabilities. This may involve the use of multiple formats for public notice of applications as well as alternative methods of communication at public meetings (see Section 6, Technology and Communications, for examples).

Making the Accessibility Plan Available to Municipal Staff and Developers

The local accessibility plan should be shared with appropriate municipal staff and key players in the development and design industry.

The ODA requires that accessibility plans include the following:

  1. a report on measures the municipality has taken to identify, remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities
  2. the measures in place to ensure that the municipality assesses its proposals for bylaws, policies, programs, practices and services to determine their effect on accessibility for people with disabilities
  3. a list of the bylaws, policies, programs, practices and services that the municipality will review in the coming year in order to identify barriers to people with disabilities
  4. the measures that the municipality intends to take in the coming year to identify, remove and prevent barriers to people with disabilities;
  5. all other information that the regulations prescribe for the purpose of the plan.

5 Planning for Barrier-Free Municipalities: Implementing the Framework

A subway entranceThis section provides a list of universal design options and ideas that municipalities, planners, architects, developers and other professionals can incorporate into new developments, existing public facilities and outdoor spaces to create accessible environments. Other examples can be found in the recommended references.


Transportation and transportation-related infrastructure often present unintended barriers that restrict the movement of people with disabilities. Such barriers can be reduced or eliminated through the incorporation of universal design.

The ministries of Transportation and Citizenship and Immigration have developed the Co-ordinated Community Transportation Resource, an information package that includes a video and resource manual to assist in the co-ordination of local transportation initiatives, such as providing transportation services for people with mobility constraints. The package is available from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. [Note: copies are still available; however some information may be outdated as this resource is approximately seven years old.]

I. Parking Lots / Permits / Bylaws

For people with disabilities who drive their own cars, barrier-free design involves ensuring an adequate number of on- and off-street designated parking spaces.

Municipalities should consider having local parking bylaws in place covering provincially-issued disabled person parking permits. Designated parking spaces and passenger loading zones should be located near building entrances, and should be clearly marked and of adequate size.

II. Curb Cuts and Entrance Ramps

The design of curb cuts and entrance ramps is essential to the safety of individuals who have vision loss and those using wheelchairs and other mobility aids, such as canes and walkers. Curb cuts make sidewalks accessible to baby strollers, delivery carts and anything else on wheels that need to be pushed or pulled. It is recommended that the slope of a curb cut or entrance ramp be gradual with a non-slip surface.

Most ramps should have railings to improve safety.

III. Traffic Signals / Pedestrian Crossing
For municipalities installing and upgrading traffic signals, it is important to plan for and program the time provided for crossing streets so that it is long enough to allow a slow-moving person to cross safely. Push-buttons or sensor controls (push buttons are not the best device to use, as not all people have the manual dexterity to use them) for traffic lights should be low enough for the standard height of a wheelchair and located free from barriers, such as newspaper boxes.

IV. Audible Traffic Signals (ATS)
Audible traffic signals assist people with vision loss to cross roads and help establish a straight line of travel from one side of the road to the other. The sound of the north-south signal should be distinct from the sound of the east-west signal, to avoid confusion.

Recreational and Other Public Facilities

A man pushing a bicycle along a path.Municipalities play an important leadership role in encouraging increased accessibility to all forms of leisure activities for the public. Recreational activity helps improve the quality of life of everyone in the community. 

Universal access to and within public libraries, playgrounds, arenas, parks, zoos, campsites and other recreational facilities is desirable for the well-being of the entire community. Providing accessibility also includes incorporating universal design in amenities such as picnic tables, benches, drinking fountains, and play areas and maintaining them in good condition.

The Ontario Parks Association has released the Playability Tool Kit, which provides suggestions on how play areas can be made accessible for all users.

Landscape Design and Fences

Landscape design and fences can be used effectively to help orient people with vision loss toward entrances. For example, bushes planted on either side of an entrance can make it easier to find. The planting of thorny plants or fruit-bearing trees, however, should be avoided for safety reasons.

Sidewalks, Walkways and Paths

As noted earlier, it is important to keep walkways in a municipality clear of obstructions. Barriers on walkways make it difficult for all people to move around, particularly people with disabilities. Amenity strips or rights-of-way with textural changes in the pavement to accommodate items such as advertising signs, planters, paper boxes and light standards are a good way to keep busy pedestrian areas free of obstacles. Accessible sidewalks, walkways and paths should have appropriate surface treatment, slope and pitch.

Street Furniture and Amenities

Street furniture includes benches, lampposts, signboards, bus stops, telephone booths, planters and drinking fountains. It is recommended that street furniture be located strategically to allow free passage of all people. Rest areas are helpful to all pedestrians, especially people with mobility problems. Amenities, such as public telephones and drinking fountains, should be designed to be within comfortable reach for children and people using wheelchairs or scooters.

Signage and Symbols

Signage includes directional and information signs, street names and numbering. Consideration should be given to both the placement and design of all signs.

Signs should be well lit and mounted or hung in a prominent location, and at height that all users can read comfortably. The sign itself should use universal symbols, tactile lettering, contrasting colours and fonts in a size and type that are easy to read.


Designated municipalities and District Social Services Administration Boards (DSSABs) have the responsibility for social housing and will have the opportunity to ensure that adaptable, universal and flexible housing options are explored in the future. Municipal service managers are required to maintain a specified number of modified units for their service areas as set out by the Act.

6 Technology and Communications

Municipalities can take advantage of emerging technologies to remove barriers and increase participation in the planning process. Information can be distributed in multiple formats to reach people who are deaf or people with vision loss or learning disabilities. Some examples include audio tapes, large print, Braille, electronic text, computer-assisted systems and closed captioning.

Public meetings should be accessible and equipped to improve communication and participation. Municipalities may consider using meeting spaces that are wheelchair accessible. In addition, information can be conveyed both audibly andvisually with ASL interpretation or real-time captioning. Assistive listening devices should be available for those who need them.

Communications and Planning Policy

People may have disabilities that prevent them from accessing public documents and information. This includes people with:

  • vision loss, including those who are blind or have low vision,
  • learning disabilities
  • intellectual or developmental disabilities
  • physical disabilities, who may not be able to hold publications or turn pages

Other people cannot access or have difficulties accessing the Internet. Some have difficulties watching or hearing video presentations. Providing information in accessible and alternate formats is an important communications consideration.

Relevant technologies for alternative formats include Braille, screen reader and magnification software, e-mail, the Internet and interactive websites, closed captioning, and assistive listening systems, such as infrared light technology or induction loop technology.

Equal access to information is an important component of good customer service. Preparing materials in multiple formats in advance will save time when dealing with individual requests.

7 Municipal Best Practices and Examples

Municipalities are in a position to implement accessibility strategies for persons with disabilities, whether it is through specific programs or financing initiatives. Developing and sharing information on best practices is helpful. Specific examples that illustrate some of the progressive steps some municipalities have taken to plan for and improve accessibility in their communities are listed below.

City of Peterborough

The City of Peterborough formed the Council for Persons with Disabilities in 1988–1989 to integrate and assist people with disabilities in the community. The committee developed the document Access Guidelines in 1992. The document was updated in 1995. The city’s Planning Committee revised the guidelines in October 2002. The guidelines are used locally in land use planning, site development and property design initiatives.

Access Guidelines acknowledges the accessibility needs of the elderly and people with disabilities. It is used locally in land use planning, site development and property design initiatives and attempts to strike a balance between design and planning requirements for different types of disabilities.

The guidelines are applied to the entire community and include sections on curb cuts, walkways, recreation areas, universally designed playgrounds, accessible transportation and hosting events. In addition, the guidelines contain an excerpt from the city’s zoning bylaw regarding motor vehicle parking requirements to serve disabled people.

The Council for Persons with Disabilities includes a buildings committee to deal with accessibility issues. The terms of reference for the buildings committee include monitoring the accessibility of local buildings; providing input to the site plan committee to ensure accessibility is considered in site plan approvals; provide information to local departments and the private sector on access requirements; ensuring building code standards pertaining to accessibility are incorporated and enforced; and responding to accessibility issues raised in the community.

The City of Peterborough has developed a one-hour sensitivity training model that can be used to train volunteers and staff.

City of Windsor

Since 1981, the City of Windsor has had a standing committee mandated to increase awareness in the community of the needs of people with disabilities. The Windsor Accessibility Advisory Committee (WAAC) has one member of Council and 11 community members, including individuals with disabilities. The committee selects a chair and vice chair from its membership. City staff are also available as resources to the committee.

The mandate of the WAAC is to:

  • advise city council and staff
  • undertake needs assessments
  • promote community awareness
  • encourage co-ordinated services
  • act as policy advocates.

Sub-committees under the WAAC have specific responsibilities for:

  • barrier-free design
  • curb cuts, sidewalks and railway crossings
  • employment issues
  • health services
  • transportation matters.

City of Guelph

In June 2001, the City of Guelph and the Guelph-Wellington Barrier Free Advisory Committee released Accessibility Guidelines. The guidelines are meant to assist the planning, design and development process for a barrier-free Guelph.

The guidelines are adapted from those of other cities and organizations across North America, including the National Building Code and Accessibility Standards (Canada), the Canadian Standards Association, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Guelph-Wellington Barrier-Free Advisory Committee.

The City of Guelph, as an employer and provider of services, aims to:

  • take a leadership role in achieving and setting an example to the business, institutional and volunteer sectors in terms of access and integration, employment equity, communications, recreation, transportation, housing and education
  • establish a process to identify barriers and gaps in existing services and facilities
  • continuously improve the level of accessibility of existing municipal services and facilities
  • actively encourage input from all segments of the community in the design, development and operation of new and renovated municipal services and facilities
  • provide resources and support to give effect to this policy.

(from City of Guelph, Accessibility Guidelines, June 2001)

The City continues to support a barrier-free community, as outlined in section 4.

City of Brampton

In April 2001, Brampton City Council adopted a policy on universal design for play spaces. Council also adopted a list of standards for ramping, surfacing, landings, wheelchair accessible platforms and entrances and exits.

Brampton’s objective is to enhance universal accessibility, for people with disabilities, to all of the city’s playgrounds through the application of universal design principles. The goal of this policy is to ensure the quality of playtime for every child, with a focus on the development of social, physical and co-operative skills, including opportunities for integration, interaction and inclusion with other children. Universal design principles apply to new and replacement play equipment.

City of Winnipeg

The City of Winnipeg was Canada’s first municipality to adopt a universal design policy in December 2001, thereby making a commitment to create a city that is truly inclusive of all citizens through endorsing and incorporating the concept of universal design. This policy:

  • recognizes that the population of Winnipeg has different physical abilities, strengths, challenges, etc., and that these should not exclude or segregate anyone from participating in community life and accessing and using municipal services
  • reduces the need and costs associated with providing disability-specific solutions by providing a generalized approach to design that accommodates a wider range of people
  • ensures that new civic buildings, environments, products, services and programs are designed to be useable by a wide range of citizens
  • promotes a city that is comfortable, attractive and inclusive.

During 1998 and 1999, the City of Winnipeg conducted an accessibility audit. The city’s Access Advisory Committee, which advises council on access to information, services and properties, oversaw the project assisted by people with disabilities who helped in design research, audit and data analysis (Ringaert, 2000).

Winnipeg believes a universally designed city will be accessible, safe and aesthetically pleasing. It will be able to attract more tourists and convention dollars and improve the quality of life of its own residents, as it gives everyone the opportunity to take full advantage of the city’s services and amenities.

A beach in Pickering which provides an example of a fully-accessible waterfront playground.8 Conclusion

This handbook has been designed to raise awareness of, and help improve, accessibility in outdoor public spaces and facilities.  The Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 requires municipalities to prepare annual accessibility plans. Doing so gives all members of the community the power to participate.

9 Self-Assessment Questionnaire

What is your municipality’s Accessibility Quotient (AQ)? Take the test.

The following questionnaire is designed for local officials, planning and other municipal staff as a “self-assessment tool” to help determine a community’s AQ. It allows a municipality to assess its present status in various areas of municipal service delivery, primarily related to land use planning, and to determine the relative strengths and weaknesses in these areas. An analysis of these strengths and weaknesses can help municipal staff determine appropriate actions to improve service delivery.

How can the municipality attain a high AQ?

A municipality can reach a high AQ by:

  • Ensuring equal access for all citizens, improving their quality of life in the process
  • Identifying barriers in the municipality
  • Incorporating universal design principles into the planning and development process
  • Helping identify measures required by the ODA to be included in the accessibility plan
  • Using accessibility as a marketing tool to attract a wider range of tourists and conferences/conventions
  • Planning for the increasing numbers of people with disabilities as the population ages
  • Helping the municipality comply with the Human Rights Code.

There are four steps to determining your accessibility quotient:

  1. Complete the questionnaire.
  2. Total your answers.
  3. Assess the results and discuss with council, access committee and other staff.
  4. Prepare accessibility plans as required by the ODA and update local planning procedures and policies.

NOTE: For a broader questionnaire applying to municipal services, please refer to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities document, A How-to Manual on Municipal Access.

Accessibility Quotient: the Test

Municipal Staff and Attitudes




1. Does your municipality have an accessibility plan that is updated annually, as required by the ODA?



2. Does your municipality have a main contact person/department identified to handle inquiries related to accessibility, and can the contact be reached through multiple formats?


For full marks, the contact person should have information about your municipality’s approach toward creating a barrier-free environment readily available. Add a bonus point if it is already in multiple formats (e.g., TTY/TDD and Braille or other text reading software) and available on the municipality’s website.



3. Does your municipality maintain an updated inventory of accessible municipal features?



4. Does your municipality monitor the availability and usage of barrier-free features? Example 1: accessible parking spaces – are there enough; are they close to the buildings they serve? Example 2: curb cuts – do curb cuts comply with barrier-free design standards?



5. Does your municipality have policies for:

accommodating employees with disabilities?
ensuring municipal facilities, publications, websites, meetings and services are accessible to people with disabilities?



6. Does your municipality have a committee designated to deal with accessibility issues, which includes members with disabilities as required by the ODA?



7. Does municipal staff discuss/coordinate developments and redevelopments with other departments to ensure universal design standards are incorporated?



8. Does your municipality collect and analyse data regarding people with disabilities, including demographics on population numbers, locations and aging?



9. Does your municipality include information on accessibility when marketing for tourism and conventions?



10. Does your municipality offer staff sensitivity training with respect to interaction with and understanding issues concerning people with disabilities?




Land Use Planning and Development




11. Does your municipal official plan contain policies promoting a barrier-free municipality?



12. Does your comprehensive zoning by-law require or accommodate barrier-free provisions?



13. Does the review of all planning applications ensure regard is given to accessibility for persons with disabilities as required by the Planning Act?



14. Does your municipality ensure barrier-free designs are incorporated into new construction projects and redevelopments in outdoor public spaces?



15. Does your municipality have an internal process for the Accessibility Advisory Committee to review site plans and drawings in a timely manner, as set out in Sections 12(5) and 12(6) of the ODA?



16. Does your municipality provide information in alternative formats to people with disabilities to enable them to participate in the planning process (i.e., large print, audio tapes, computer diskettes, Braille)?




Infrastructure and Maintenance




17. When planning sidewalks and walkways, does your municipality implement accessibility features such as curb cuts, ramps, grate design and location, and grade elevations?



18. Are all municipal buildings, parks and recreational facilities including playgrounds barrier-free?



19. Does your municipality use audible traffic signals at busy intersections and do people understand them?



20. Do your municipal maintenance and snow removal plans keep walks and exterior spaces clear for wheelchairs, canes, strollers, etc.?



21. Does your municipality use international and universal symbols and tactile signage? Consider print size, colour, lighting and contrast.



22. Are trash receptacles, drinking fountains, benches, public telephones and other municipal accessories easily accessible for people using wheelchairs and other assistive devices?








23. Is an appropriate amount of public transportation available to people with disabilities in your municipality?



24. Is sensitivity training offered to drivers and other transportation staff?



25. Is there a transportation committee that includes members with disabilities?



26. Does your municipality have a parking bylaw and does it adequately serve people with disabilities?


Note: The province issues Disabled Person Parking Permits and municipalities are responsible for enforcing parking bylaws.



27. Does your municipality have incentives that encourage local taxi companies to provide accessible vehicles in their fleets?




Housing and Accommodation




28. Does your municipality promote and provide incentives to developers to build adaptable and accessible housing, and is visit-ability a consideration?



29. Is there a sufficient inventory of barrier-free residential/rental units in the municipality to accommodate people with disabilities and seniors?



30. Do your local hotels, motels and other short-term accommodation contain barrier-free units for guests with disabilities?




How did you score?

  • Municipal Staff and Attitudes Total _____ out of 10
  • Land Use Planning and Development Total _____ out of 6
  • Infrastructure and Maintenance Total _____ out of 6
  • Transportation Total _____ out of 5
  • Housing Total _____ out of 3
  • Overall Total _____ out of 30

There are 30 questions. Award one point for each “YES” answer. Then, total your number of “YES” answers.

A score greater than 25 indicates that you are likely well on you way to being accessible. It is important, however, to look continuously for opportunities to improve access and opportunities for people with disabilities


Accessible means that a program, activity, meeting, hearing, or other event or process is readily usable by an individual, regardless of his or her abilities. When used in reference to a building or facility, it means that a facility can be approached, entered and used by any individual, regardless of his or her abilities.

Accessibility is a set of qualities of a product, service or facility that enables people with disabilities and seniors to get to, find, reach and use it, with or without the help of special assistive devices. Barriers to accessibility faced by people with disabilities are found in employment, communication, public transportation, the built environment, government services, the use of everyday products and access to education.

A sidewalk with a textured amenity strip.Amenity Strip means a portion of the sidewalk that is distinguished by colour and texture, and is dedicated to the placement of utilities, signs, newspaper boxes, bicycle racks and other items that could otherwise inhibit the movement of pedestrians and persons with disabilities using mobility aids.

Assistive Devices are products, instruments, equipment or technological aids used by people with disabilities that help prevent, compensate, relieve or neutralise a disability.

Barrier as defined by the Ontarians with Disabilities Act means anything that prevents a person with a disability from fully participating in all aspects of society because of his or her disability, including a physical barrier, an architectural barrier, an information or communications barrier, an attitudinal barrier, a technological barrier, a policy or a practice.

Barrier-Free as defined by the Ontario Building Code means that a building and its facilities can be approached, entered and used by people with physical and sensory disabilities.

Barrier-Free Design means giving users the ability to move around without restriction. The term barrier-free design is commonly interpreted as removing physical and attitudinal obstacles that prevent the free movement of people with disabilities in a manner that is consistent with regulations, standards or codes of practice.

Curb Cut is a short ramp cutting through a curb that eliminates the step between the sidewalk and the road.

Curb Ramp is a sloped, paved area leading from a sidewalk to a curb cut at an intersection with vehicular traffic.

Detectable Surface is flooring material that is colour/brightness contrasted with the surrounding floor material and is of a different texture from the surrounding floor material. Textures should be immediately detectable, but should not present a tripping hazard. Markings should be colour fast, durable, easily cleaned and crowned to drain.

Disability as defined by the ODA and the Ontario Human Rights Code means:

  1. any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device,
  2. a condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability,
  3. a learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language,
  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.

Inclusive Design is often used interchangeably with “universal design.” Inclusiveness means right to access, right to use and enjoy without special status or burden.

Multiple Format means a form of communicating information that may be oral, written, in large type, sign language, audio cassette, use computer technology or other means that are readily understandable to, and usable by a person, regardless of his or her disability.

Tactile describes an object that can be perceived using the sense of touch.

Universal Design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. Universal design seeks to create products and environments that are usable by the broadest spectrum of the population, regardless of age or physical differences.

Where To Get More Information

Provincial Planning Policy Branch

14th Floor – 777 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M5G 2E5
(416) 585-6014

Staff located in MMAH Municipal Services Offices across Ontario:

777 Bay Street, 2nd Floor 
Toronto M5G 2E5
General Inquiry: (416) 585-6226
Toll Free: 1-800-688-0230 
Fax: (416) 585-6882


659 Exeter Road, 2nd Floor
London N6E 1L3
General Inquiry: (519) 873-4020
Toll Free: 1-800-265-4736
Fax: (519) 873-4018

8 Estate Lane, Rockwood House
Kingston K7M 9A8
General Inquiry: (613) 545-2100
Toll Free: 1-800-267-9438
Fax: (613) 548-6822

159 Cedar Street, Suite 401
Sudbury P3E 6A5
General Inquiry: (705) 564-0120
Toll Free: 1-800-461-1193
Fax: (705) 564-6863

435 James Street South, Suite 223
Thunder Bay P7E 6S7
General Inquiry: (807) 475-1651
Toll Free: 1-800-465-5027
Fax: (807) 475-1196


Abilities: Canada’s Lifestyle Magazine for People with Disabilities.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, (Statutes of Ontario 2005, Chapter 11).

Building Code, (Ontario Regulation 350/06 made under the Building Code Act, 1992). See also, Fact Sheet on the Building Code. 2007.

Burlington (Vermont) Disability Council. Physical Accessibility Checklist. 1990.

Burlington (Vermont) Planning Commission. Removing Barriers – A Guide for Including People with Disabilities in the Planning Process. 1990.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Housing for Persons with Disabilities. 1996.

Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Ontario Division. Clearing Our Path: Recommendations on How to Make Public Places Accessible to People who are Blind, Visually Impaired, and Deafblind. August 1998.

Canadian Standards Association. CAN/CSA-B651-95, Barrier-Free Design, Public Safety, A National Standard of Canada. 1995.

Canadian Standards Association. B480-02, Customer Service Standard for People with Disabilities. June 2002.

City of Burlington (Ontario). Barrier-Free Design Checklist - Burlington Committee for the Physically Challenged. December 2001.

City of Guelph. Accessibility Guidelines. June 2001. City of London. Facility Access Design Standards. 2001. City of New York. Universal Design – New York. 2001.

City of Peterborough. Access Guidelines. April 1995. City of Sault Ste. Marie. Accessible Site Design. 1989. City of Toronto. Accessibility Guidelines. July 2002. City of Windsor. Toward a Barrier-Free Community Accessibility Guidelines. No date.

Federation of Canadian Municipalities, National Action Committee on Municipal Access. A How-to Manual on Municipal Access. No Date.

Greater Toronto Hotel Association, Hospitality Checklist (

Holten, Shane. Planning a Barrier-Free City of Toronto, A Statement of Planning Principles. Prepared for: The Toronto Joint Citizen’s Committee for People with Disabilities, City of Toronto. 2000.

Human Resources Development Canada, Office for Disability Issues. A Way with Words, Guidelines and Appropriate Terminology for the Portrayal of Persons with Disabilities. 1998.

Human Resources Development Canada, Office for Disability Issues. Bridging the Gap, Government of Canada Programs and Services of Interest to Canadians with Disabilities. 1998.

Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001. (Statutes of Ontario 2001, Chapter 32).

Ontario Ministry of Finance.

Ontario Population Projections, 1999–2028. July 2000.

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Barrier-Free Guidelines Design Manual, Ontario Parks. Volume 3, 1996.

Ringaert, Laurie. Teaching City Centres to Care. Design Exchange – Exchange Magazine, pp. 38-42, Fall 2000.

Royal Bank of Canada, Current Analysis Reports. Outlook for People with Disabilities: Cautious Optimism on a Mounting 21st Century Social Challenge. April 2000.

Szold, Terry S. What Difference has the ADA Made? Planning Practice, pp. 10–15, April 2002.

Towns of Richmond Hill, Markham and City of Vaughan. Joint Municipal Guidelines for Accessibility. 1999.

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat-Federal Identity Program Manual. Tactile Signage, Sign System and Installation Guide. Interim Guide, October 1997.

Truesdale, Steven and Steinfeld, Edward. Visit-Ability: An Approach to Universal Design in Housing. Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Universal Design, School of Architecture and Planning, University at Buffalo. No Date.

U.S. Access Board. Americans with Disabilities Act – Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities, as amended through January 1998.

U.S. Access Board. Access to Telecommunications Equipment and Customer Premises Equipment by Individuals with Disabilities, Final Report. 1997.

Internet References

The Canadian Hearing Society - For information on interpreter services, assistive listening devices, TTY’s etc.

Persons with Disabilities Online - An alternative source of information on programs and services for people with disabilities.

Making Ontario Accessible - Information on accessibility for people with disabilities from the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

Accessibility Compliance - Information and resources to help organizations understand and comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

Australian Advisory Notes on Access to Premises.

The Playability Tool Kit, Ontario Parks Association. 

Clear Print Guide, CNIB.

United Nations, Accessibility for the Disabled – A Design Manual for a Barrier-Free Environment.

United Nations, Japan - ESCAP Cooperation Fund — Freedom of Movement for Persons with Disabilities and Older Persons in the Asia-Pacific Region, United Nations.

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