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Ensuring Accessibility for Persons with HMD

The Accessible Canada Act states that Canada will be barrier-free by 2040. Current federal accessibility standards are being reviewed to make sure all barriers to access are being addressed. One critical area of modification is the barriers faced by people with hidden mobility disabilities (HMD) – i.e. individuals who are independently mobile but can walk no more than a short distance or stand unsupported for no more than a brief time without significant health consequences.

While Canada has detailed accessibility standards for the built environment, they focus on access for wheeled mobility devices and ignore people with limited mobility. The following are requirements for accessibility for those with HMD:

  • Walk no more than 15 m without the ability to sit down and rest.
  • Seating to rest just inside building entrances and on staircase landings.
  • Accessible parking within 15m of building entrance.
  • Seated service offered at the entrance to an office or a self-service kiosk.
  • Bring the service to the customer rather than forcing the customer to walk to the service.
  • Time standing of no more than 1 minute without a railing or other form of support or the ability to take a number and sit down while waiting.
  • Seating in front of elevators while waiting, and handrails inside so one doesn’t stand unsupported.
  • Handrails for stairs, plus landings with seating every 7 steps to rest.
  • Public washrooms no more than 15m from a building entrance.

This project, sponsored by the Hidden Mobility Disabilities Alliance and funded by Accessibility Standards Canada, is designed to determine how best to address:

  • Physical barriers posed by distance to be walked and time standing.
  • Assumptions people make about what constitutes a short distance to be walked or a short time to stand.

We’re asking for your help with how best to change those assumptions.

To shift assumptions, people must first become aware of what a “short distance” for people with HMD, is. Research indicates it’s 10.7 metres (35 feet).

Your participation will start with informational material about HMD and determining the distance that’s comfortable for you to walk. Then you’ll be asked to:

  1. Complete a survey about different distance situations
  2. Participate in an online discussion with other participants and organizational staff about positive solutions for making sure that distance to be walked and time standing are not access barriers. This will help develop best practices for creating a public environment in which those with HMD can participate fully.

Thank you for your willingness to participate!