Under the Design of Public Spaces Standard of the AODA, cities and other organizations building or redeveloping beach access routes must make those routes accessible to visitors with disabilities. Beach access routes are paths allowing people of all abilities to walk to beaches. The beach itself is not part of the route. The route may start at a parking lot, sidewalk, trail, or convenient landmark such as a bench or fountain.
Ontario Requirements for Beach Access Routes
The Standard lists minimum requirements for many aspects of beach access routes. Entrances should have clear openings of at least 1,000 mm. Moreover, routes must have minimum clear widths of 1,000 mm. These widths provide room for people with mobility devices or service animals. In addition, beach access routes must have minimum head room clearances of 2,100 mm. This height ensures that routes are free of obstacles overhead that white canes cannot detect, like signs or tree branches.
Routes must have firm and stable surfaces that canes, crutches, or the wheels of mobility devices will not sink into. Likewise, if there are openings in a route’s surface, they must be smaller than 20 mm. This size prevents mobility devices from getting stuck in the openings. Long, narrow openings should be at right angles to the direction of travel. Finally, any change of level on a beach access route must have a slope or ramp. All slopes, ramps, handrails, and boardwalks must comply with the technical requirements for them in the Design of Public Spaces Standard.
Accessibility at the Beach
Beach access routes ensure that everyone can reach the edge of the sand. However, nothing in the Standard mandates that a beach itself needs to be accessible. Some beaches close this accessibility gap by offering amenities for people with disabilities. Full accessibility allows everyone to have fun in the sun and sand with family and friends.