25 St. Clair in Toronto: Accessibility 3.0

The front of a glazed building with vehicles passing by

A large Government of Canada facility is undergoing a major modernization project that will make it a leader among federal buildings in accessible design. Once completed, the building will serve as a demonstration of a new standard for accessibility in publicly and privately owned office buildings.

Located at 25 St. Clair Avenue East in Toronto, this state-of-the-art building will offer the latest accessibility features for people with reduced mobility and those experiencing sight or hearing loss. The building rehabilitation project is an example of how the Government of Canada is striving to create an accessible, inclusive and barrier-free environment for its employees and the public.

Mobility

Consideration was given to how weather conditions affect access to the building. With this in mind, exterior ramps at the main public entrance will have an electric ice-melting system built into the concrete sidewalk to keep the surface entirely free of ice. This will ensure the ramp surface is safe for those using wheelchairs or other mobility devices during Canada’s harsh winter season.

The design team also recognized and addressed potential accessibility challenges in the elevator. Oversized or tactile buttons, designed to be perceived by touch, will be installed and users will receive audio feedback when entering the elevator.

A schematic design of a modern glazed building with wheelchair access

In addition, elevator door operations will be enabled to adjust the timing of door closures, allowing sufficient time for wheelchairs, mobility devices or people with walking difficulties to enter and exit. Through the employee’s access-control card, the elevators can be programmed with a slower door-cycling period (up to 30 seconds).

In emergency situations, individuals with mobility challenges can find themselves unable to access exit stairs. An innovative feature will be the construction of areas of refuge. They’re protected spaces located at each elevator lobby and are surrounded by a minimum of 1-hour fire-rated wall assemblies, along with a monitored security phone. In the event of an emergency, anyone requiring assistance can use the phone to call for help, allowing first responders to locate the individual. Signage and communication devices will be installed to ensure that first responders can quickly and easily access the protected spaces.

Hearing disabilities

To provide a more equitable environment for people with hearing loss, assistive listening systems will be available in meeting rooms and common areas. These systems help people with hearing loss or low hearing by enhancing their ability to understand the speaker, which is particularly helpful where verbal communication is key to the function of the space.

Visual disabilities

25 St. Clair is the first federal building to join the Canadian National Institute for the Blind project called BlindSquare. BlindSquare is an accessible indoor navigation application that uses physical beacons and GPS data to deliver audio instructions to smartphones. The BlindSquare application will allow the visually impaired to navigate independently throughout the building using their personal electronic devices.

Anyone with BlindSquare can receive critical information about their surroundings, such as the location of tables, washrooms or staircases, allowing them to safely access the government services in the building. The application can, in fact, be beneficial for anyone who needs assistance with wayfinding, including people with mobility or cognitive disabilities, as well as those who may not be comfortable asking for directions.

In addition, 25 St. Clair will provide signage, wayfinding and tactile directional indicators to support the visually impaired from the public entrance through reception, and within public areas. In elevators and elevator lobbies, there will be announcements about the direction the elevator is traveling (up or down) and the floor it is currently on.

Together, these features will contribute to the ability of all building users to navigate the space and use this Government of Canada facility. To learn more, visit Accessibility at Public Services and Procurement Canada.

The 25 St. Clair building will be at the forefront in terms of accessibility and greening features.

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