Updated: Nov 8, 2021
By Chris Stigas
The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™️(RHFAC) is a national rating system that measures and certifies the level of meaningful access of buildings and sites. It quantifies accessibility and how you can improve it. It identifies barriers for your community , customers, and employees that might have hearing loss, vision loss, or physical disabilities.
When conducting building audits there are several items which are common barriers and can reduce a buildings overall rating. Below are the top 10 items which I see repeatedly and can be fixed to increase your score. When present, these ten items will put your building in the gold standard* of meaningful accessibility and score +80% in the RHFAC rating.
#1 - Accessible parking stalls that are not wide enough and do not include a shared protected space if they are adjacent to another accessible stall. Typically, the ISA marker on the pavement is also extremely faded and the post signage ISA is too low to be visible if a vehicle is parked in the stall.
#2 - Button at the front entrance is not in an accessible spot - Typically, the buttons that I see are located behind the opening arc of the door and not on the latch side. If they are on the latch side, they typically are still too close to an outward opening door swing for a mobility device user to press. Additionally, very rarely do we see the recommended vertical bar that is set off to the side and even set back from the front door.
#3 - ISA signage at decision points - Applies to signage inside and outside of a building that lets a person with a disability know which direction the accessible washrooms are, accessible building entrance, accessible parking and even in some cases the reception desk.
#4 - Eye level high colour contrast striping on glazing - Frosted stripes or frosted glazing is not considered high colour contrast. You need two parallel stripes at roughly eye level, on all interior glazed walls and even some types of glass doors.
#5 - Toilet paper dispensers mounted too far away from the toilet in an accessible stall - Ideally the toilet paper dispenser should be directly beside the toilet bowl. If the washroom has an L grab bar (as it should) then the best place for the toilet paper dispenser is directly under the middle of the horizontal part of the L grab bar.
#6 - Curb cuts that do not lineup or do not exist at accessible parking stalls - Each parking stall, in addition to a protected space should have a curb cut that leads from that protected space onto a sidewalk area or a path of travel leading to the front entrance of the respective building.
#7 - Tactile warning Indicators at the tops of stairs and ramps - This consideration is missing in more spots than all other accessibility items combined. It is now mandatory in all new construction but also a very simple and easy retrofit feature to install.
#8 - Accessible shower plumbing fixtures mounted too far away from the fixed seat - This is extremely common in many sites. The plumbing controls in an accessible shower stall should be able to be accessed - including the showerhead, from a seated position without having to lean forward.
#9 - No hearing loops at reception counters or anywhere information is being exchanged - This is a very valuable feature for people with hearing loss. It lets the person giving the information connect directly to the individual's hearing device and eliminates all ambient background noise. It is also perfect in auditorium or public speaking settings.
#10 - A comprehensive evacuation plan in high contrast multiple formats including an area of refuge - Almost all multi floor buildings do not have any form of an evacuation plan or e-vac chair. If there is one that does exist, it’s typically not in an accessible format and typically in tiny writing, located only somewhere near the elevator buttons. It’s usually very difficult to find and see in a panic situation, especially when there’s smoke involved. Areas of refuge are very rare and need to be specifically built, with a separate HVAC system than their surroundings.
Bonus- Photoluminescent treatment in stairwells. Stairwells can become very dark and scary places in instances of emergency, especially when filled with smoke. Emergency lighting more often than not casts shadows and makes seeing steps extremely difficult. Photoluminescent treatment on stair nosing and handrails infinitely increases depth perception and visibility in these conditions.
* According to the definition set in the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification
Product Development, HandiHelp Accessible Innovations Inc.
Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™️ Professional
With a background in architectural renderings, blueprint design and planning, Chris is able to consult at the early stages of a construction project, and right up to completion. He has 20 years of electrical and construction experience as well as experience in AODA and the Building Code. In 2015 Chris suffered a traumatic, life altering spinal cord injury which led to his career focus on accessibility and consulting. He has the unique perspective of having both sides of the equation to draw on when conducting assessments and giving recommendations.
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