New building accessibility certification program created by Rick Hansen Foundation

Jun 16 2018, 6:04 am

Building certification programs such as LEED and Passive House are known to focus on promoting green building and sustainable-centric designs, and a new national certification program created by Vancouver-based Rick Hansen Foundation hopes to achieve the same for accessibility.

The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) provides designers with a standard to follow to meet an optimal level of accessibility for their building designs. It covers most types of buildings – residential, commercial, and institutional.

Such standards currently do not exist in Canada, although it exists in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia as a federally-mandated standard through legislation.

“While many buildings and sites have accessible features, they are often mobility-centric and may fall short of the actual needs of people with disabilities,” Brad McCannell, Vice-President of Access Inclusion for the Rick Hansen Foundation, told Daily Hive.

“When the built environment is truly accessible, it naturally benefits everyone – small children, parents with strollers, older adults and seniors, and people with temporary and permanent disabilities – and is inclusive of people’s needs across their lifespan.”

Rick Hansen Foundation

Brad McCannell, Vice-President of Access Inclusion for the Rick Hansen Foundation. (Rick Hansen Foundation)

Buildings are assessed and scored by RHFAC on a scale of one to five in eight different categories, such as vehicular and exterior access, interior circulation, and communication systems. Specific design elements include wayfinding signage with raised lettering, counter heights, doorway and hallway widths, elevators, and visual fire alarms.

Final scores will determine the building’s accessibility rating – whether it qualifies for one of two certifications. A rating of 80% or over produces a certification level of RHF Accessibility Certified Gold while a rating of between 60% and 79% qualifies for the minimum certification of RHF Accessibility Certified. Scores below 60% do not qualify for certification.

After a successful certification, building owners can list their certification publicly and purchase a label or plaque to recognize their building’s high standard of accessible design.

“The issue is, even though cities and provinces across Canada are addressing accessibility, there is no common benchmark. RHFAC provides a uniform view and consistent national approach,” continued McCannell, adding that about one in seven Canadian adults have a mobility, vision, or hearing disability.

“It is our intention that certification could also support regulatory due diligence since new federal accessibility legislation is expected to be tabled in Canada this year.”

Currently, until March 2019, the RHFAC is being offered as a free program to buildings in BC. About 1,100 free ratings will be offered, and over 800 buildings have already registered to have their accessibility rated.

Typically, RHFAC will charge building owners for the accessibility rating, with costs determined on a scale based on the total floor area of the building. A flat rate of $1,350 is offered for the rating of non-profit buildings of all sizes while for-profit building ratings can cost up to $2,350.

Prominent RHFAC accessible-rated and certified buildings in Metro Vancouver include Vancouver International Airport, the SAP office building in Yaletown, and Richmond Olympic Oval.

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