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Accessible Recreational Trails in Ontario

Under the Design of Public Spaces Standard of the AODA, cities and other organizations building or reconstructing recreational trails must make those trails accessible to visitors with disabilities. Accessible recreational trails are paths allowing people of all abilities to move through natural environments or public spaces, like parks or playgrounds.

Accessible Recreational Trails in Ontario

Before Building

Firstly, before beginning to build or renovate a recreational trail, organizations must consult with the public and people with disabilities. This consultation will allow the organizations to learn about the need for, location, and design of:

  • Trail amenities
  • Rest areas
  • Passing areas
  • Viewing areas
  • Other pertinent features

Similarly, organizations building or redeveloping trails must also consult people with disabilities about the need for slopes or ramps. All slopes, ramps, handrails, and boardwalks must comply with the technical requirements found in the Standard. Additionally, cities that have municipal accessibility advisory committees must also consult their committees before building or redeveloping trails.

Minimum Requirements

Secondly, the Standard lists minimum requirements for many aspects of recreational trails. For instance, entrances should have clear openings of between 850 and 1,000 mm. There should be signage at each trail head, that uses good colour contrast and a sans serif font, and details:

  • How long the trail is
  • How wide the trail is on average and at its narrowest point
  • Where amenities are, if they exist
  • How steep the running slope and cross slope are on average and at their steepest inclines
  • What the surface is made of

Trails 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 trail’s surface, they must be smaller than 20 mm so that mobility devices do not get stuck in them. Long, narrow openings should be at right angles to the direction of travel. Moreover, trails must have minimum clear widths of 1,000 mm to ensure room for mobility devices or service animals. In addition, they must have minimum head room clearances of 2,100 mm so that they are free of obstacles overhead that white canes cannot detect, such as signs or tree branches. Finally, trails next to water or drop-offs must have edge protection, a raised barrier that protects people from falling off the trail.

Why we Need Accessible Trails

Accessible recreational trails give everyone space to enjoy the natural environment.