A conversation with Brad McCannell, VP Access and Inclusion, Rick Hansen Foundation

Why is improving accessibility the right thing to do for businesses?
When businesses are accessible, quality of life for people with temporary or permanent disabilities improves significantly. The number of people with disabilities is a growing, especially in light of our aging Baby Boomer demographic. Today, one in seven Canadian adults identify as having a permanent or temporary disability. This number is expected to increase to one in five by 2036.

But improving access is also an economic imperative. By 2030, spending by this group is anticipated to grow at three times the pace of the overall population, representing 21% of the total consumer market, or $316 billion annually. Accessibility brings with it huge social and economic impacts.

What is meaningful access, and why does it matter?
Simply put, accessibility means more people can access your business - as customers, clients, or tenants, as employees, or as members of the community.

No building or site is truly accessible or sustainable if it doesn’t take into consideration the wide range of needs of its users. Meaningful access is determined by how each unique person experiences an entire building or space, starting with how they reach the door, enter, and way-find throughout.

Today’s codes and common building practices focus primarily on wheelchair users. Universal Design is for everyone, including people with permanent or temporary disabilities or illnesses, older adults and seniors, and parents pushing strollers. Universal Design is inclusive of people’s needs across their lifespan. This holistic approach is what creates real and meaningful access for all users no matter what their level of physical ability.

How can my business plan for accessibility?
With Canada’s first federal accessibility legislation tabled in June, it’s critical that businesses rethink how people use and access their spaces. Every day across Canada and in our local communities, people struggle to access retail stores, restaurants, and offices, among others because of physical barriers to accessibility.

The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™ (RHFAC), launched last fall in BC, was developed to help business managers and owners. This rating system uses trained professionals to evaluate the meaningful accessibility of commercial, institutional, and multi-unit residential buildings and sites using a consistent methodology. Once rated, a building or site may be certified at one of two levels, ‘RHF Accessibility Certified’ or ‘RHF Accessibility Certified Gold,’ and organizations can choose to publicly list their certification level on the online RHFAC Registry, hosted by CSA Group, and purchase a window decal or plaque to showcase their location.

It’s a win-win for business. Rated buildings in BC can celebrate their achievements and receive a roadmap of areas they could improve upon. Once rated, organizations in BC can apply for a BC Accessibility Grant of up to $20,000 to make these improvements.

How can I learn more about RHFAC and the rating process?
RHFAC invites all Tourism Vancouver members to register for our free webinar on November 7, 2018 at 10am. The webinar will walk you through the process of having your building rated under the RHFAC. 

The viability of our communities depends on planning and design that embraces tools like the Foundation’s Accessibility Certification Program.

It makes good economic sense to know how to make your space appeal to more tenants, serve more customers, and attract more employees. And to give every Canadian the ability to participate and live to their full potential.

Together, we can build a Canada that’s accessible for all!

Brad McCannell is Vice President, Access and Inclusion, at the Rick Hansen Foundation. Since founding Canadian Barrier Free Design Inc. in 1992, Brad has been a leader in the field of accessibility and has extensive experience in the application of universal design across the built environment. Contact Brad at access@rickhansen.com.