Under the Design of Public Spaces Standard of the AODA, cities and other organizations building or redeveloping outdoor public use eating areas must make those areas accessible to visitors with disabilities. Rules for accessible outdoor public use eating areas apply to private organizations with fifty or more workers and to all public sector organizations.
Accessible Outdoor Public Use Eating Areas
Outdoor public use eating areas include picnic grounds and outdoor tables in public parks, hospitals, and universities. Outdoor food courts in resorts and amusement parks also need to be accessible. Organizations that build outdoor eating areas for public use must make at least twenty percent of their tables accessible. Furthermore, organizations with nine or fewer tables must make at least one table accessible.
Minimum Requirements for Accessible Tables
The ground surface on the way to accessible tables must be firm and stable so that canes, crutches, or the wheels of mobility devices will not sink into it. Surfaces must also be level, without slopes. The same rules apply to the ground surface under accessible tables. Moreover, there must be room around tables for visitors using mobility devices to travel forward to their tables, instead of having to approach them without facing them. In addition, tables must have knee and toe clearance so that visitors using mobility devices such as wheelchairs or scooters can sit comfortably at the tables.
More can be Done
These rules are the minimum guidelines organizations must follow to provide accessible eating areas. However, organizations may increase the accessibility of their eating areas if they wish to do so. They can start by applying the surface rules to their entire areas, not just accessible sections. Additionally, they may also want to invest in more accessible tables. If they later choose to expand their eating areas, the number of accessible tables they need will increase. Finally, organizations may wish to install tables at heights that are most convenient for visitors using mobility devices.
Why do we Need Accessible Outdoor Public Use Eating Areas?
Accessible outdoor public use eating areas make organizations from hospitals to theme parks more inclusive to visitors with disabilities. Likewise, organizations making accessibility a priority become more welcoming to families, friends, and colleagues of visitors with disabilities. Inclusiveness means that people can all eat together.