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Nearly 60 Per Cent of Buildings Mapped in Canada’s Largest Accessibility Research Effort Aren’t Accessible

Mapping Our Cities for All collected more than 126,000 data points to determine the accessibility of Canadian cities from a disability perspective and calls on all municipalities to join the mapping movement.

TORONTO, November 29, 2023--(BUSINESS WIRE)--New research released today by AccessNow, an accessibility technology company, in collaboration with the University of Calgary, Spinal Cord Injury Canada, and BDO, found that nearly 60 per cent of public-facing spaces mapped in Vancouver, Calgary, and Ottawa are not fully accessible. The report also highlights areas and sectors where cities and building owners can prioritize their efforts.

The research is part of the Mapping Our Cities for All (MOCA) project, Canada’s largest accessibility research initiative to date, which uses geographic data and insights from people with lived experiences of disability to assess the accessibility of Canadian cities. To address the lack of data around accessibility barriers in Canada and inform measurable progress, MOCA leveraged crowdsourced mapping to benchmark accessibility in buildings across Canada. MOCA assessed close to 14,000 consumer-facing, street-level public businesses in Vancouver, Calgary, and Ottawa, as well as 17 small rural Alberta towns. The research was funded by Accessibility Standards Canada, AccessNow, Mitacs, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

"The lived experience of people with disabilities is a critical part of our research and central to advancing the accessibility landscape in Canada. Only once we measure access, can we improve it," said Maayan Ziv, founder and CEO of AccessNow. "MOCA was born out of need for powerful data. By using the collective experience and perspectives of people with all forms of disabilities, we can drive meaningful progress towards a more inclusive Canada."

Report highlights areas of attention

The report revealed that among the major cities mapped, Calgary is the least accessible, with a score of just 35 per cent of businesses perceived as fully accessible. Vancouver was found to be 48 per cent accessible, and Ottawa to be 53 per cent accessible. Additionally, urban areas were only found to have a slightly greater proportion of businesses within the accessible category (44%), compared to rural areas (39%).

Notably, the report highlighted areas of attention where municipalities can prioritize their efforts. In Vancouver, businesses in the downtown core, east of Burrard Street, as well as on Broadway between the Granville and Burrard Street Bridges represent clusters of partially accessible businesses. With some of the work already done, meaningful improvements to achieve full accessibility could be made in these areas. In Ottawa’s downtown core and around the Parliamentary Precinct, many businesses were marked as not accessible, requiring more extensive interventions to improve accessibility.

"We are dedicated to creating a better understanding of the barriers faced by individuals with disabilities and using the data to support the government’s goals towards a more accessible Canada," said Dr. Victoria Fast, MOCA researcher and Associate Professor at the University of Calgary. "MOCA demonstrates how cities across Canada can apply insights from the disabled community to understand where improvements are needed most."

Education services are less accessible than clothing stores

The report also found that the sectors perceived to be the most accessible – with at least 50 per cent of businesses perceived as accessible – are health and personal care, real estate, finance and insurance, clothing and accessories, and sporting goods stores. Sectors like professional, scientific, and technical services; repair and maintenance; personal and laundry services; and educational services are less accessible, with fewer than 35 per cent rated as accessible. Of particular concern is the educational services sector, which not only is among the least accessible industries but also has the highest proportion of businesses rated as not accessible.

"The disability population reflects a massive market, with up to $13 trillion in annual consumer spending," said Ziv. "Businesses should consider the economic impacts of remaining only partially accessible or not accessible, as they are losing out on a core group of potential customers or clients."

As much of Canada remains unmapped, particularly in rural, remote, northern, Indigenous, and Francophone communities, a sustained, nationwide initiative is essential to help create a barrier-free Canada by 2040.

"Accessibility is a fundamental human right, and we envision a world where everyone can navigate their surroundings with ease and dignity, regardless of their abilities," said Ziv. "We invite other municipalities, with the support of the provincial and federal governments, to join the mapping movement and improve the accessibility of Canada’s cities. Together, we can empower individuals with disabilities to participate fully in society by providing critical insights and build a more inclusive future where no one is left behind."

Max Brault, national leader of BDO Canada’s Accessibility Consulting practice - which helped produce the final report - agrees: "When accessibility is driven by those who have lived experience with disability, that’s when you see real meaningful progress. BDO is incredibly proud to have contributed to this unique project by helping our partners create the public-facing maps and accessibility reviews within."

This type of research can be easily replicated in municipalities across Canada using the AccessNow app, and more of this research is critical to demonstrate progress towards a truly accessible nation by 2040. To learn more, visit www.accessnow.com/moca.

About MOCA

MOCA represents the largest accessibility mapping effort in Canadian history. This research was conducted by 40 employed people including those with lived experience of various disabilities and occupying various roles, including mapping or leadership positions, who spent 4,090 hours mapping over 14,000 distinct locations, collecting more than 126,000 data points and distributing 70,000 accessibility-related tags to consumer-facing, street-level buildings. The project's unique perspectives and expertise from people with disabilities have been instrumental in capturing essential insights. Compiled through a national-scale application, the data gives detailed insights that can be viewed on AccessNow’s interactive map. For the inaugural research, MOCA focused on Vancouver, Calgary, and Ottawa, as well as 17 small rural Alberta towns. Mappers from these locations assessed each location’s overall accessibility levels (Accessible, Partially Accessible, Not Accessible) and collected additional data, such as amenities and non-standardized features.

About AccessNow

AccessNow (accessnow.com) is a mobile app and website that shares information about the accessibility status of places around the world. Designed to empower people with disabilities, the platform crowdsources reviews and works with business owners to publish aspects of accessibility such as accessible parking and washrooms, elevators, ramps, scent-free and quiet spaces, and much more. For more information, visit www.accessnow.com.

View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20231129672897/en/

Contacts

Maxine Bullock
Kaiser & Partners
Maxine.Bullock@KaiserPartners.com
647.460.5990

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