Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
Human-centered design is an approach that puts the needs of people first in the creation of built environments. This approach consciously considers how people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives will interact with the built environment, keeping in mind that not everyone moves, experiences, or communicates in the same way.
- Saving on design and construction costs by eliminating the need to retrofit existing buildings in the future as our population ages and our laws evolve.
- Being able to welcome a broader extent of the community into a given space, bringing the purchasing power of people with disabilities as well as that of their networks.
- Broadening the employment pool that employers can tap into.
- The “curb cut effect”. Designing spaces that are accessible to people with disabilities ultimately benefits everyone. For example, a sidewalk curb that slopes to become level with the street at a crosswalk is an accessible design intervention for people who use mobility devices, but people with strollers or carts or bikes also benefit from it.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, or AODA, is an Ontario law enacted in 2005 which sets requirements across the province for accessibility in five key areas: information and communications, employment, transportation, design of public spaces, and customer service.
For built environment projects, compliance means meeting the requirements set out in the Design of Public Spaces Standard (DoPS), under seven sections: recreational trails and beach access routes, outdoor public use eating areas, outdoor play spaces, exterior paths of travel, accessible parking, obtaining services, and maintenance.
You can review the DoPS section of the AODA online, or refer to resources such as the AllAccess Toolkit to check your project’s compliance, but the best way to achieve and, better yet, exceed compliance is to hire an accessibility consultant.
Accessibility is a specialty area of focus and not every organization has this knowledge or capacity in-house. An accessibility consultant can help clients with space planning and barrier identification in the early stages of design, and having this foresight is a low up-front cost that creates long-term value for clients by future-proofing their assets. Going beyond the bottom line, accessibility consultants have a much broader understanding of what access means beyond basic AODA compliance - we know that being AODA compliant doesn’t always translate into being accessible, especially since DoPS’s main focus is on exterior spaces. We understand how to work with advisory groups and incorporate accessibility strategies that elevate the built environment to a higher standard.
Universal Design is a way of approaching design that aims to make the built environment accessible to the greatest extent of people possible, regardless of age or ability. Universal Design integrates accessible features into the design so that they are not apparent.
Inclusive Design is more about including people with diverse backgrounds, abilities and lived experiences in the decision-making process of design.
Barrier-Free is a building code term and Barrier-Free Design refers to the most basic level of access; it is about meeting code requirements and often comes up when trying to remediate an inaccessible feature in a building, like adding a ramp once a barrier has been identified.
Wellness is about making choices that support a healthy and fulfilling life and striving to achieve optimal physical, mental and social wellbeing. From a design perspective, this means understanding how the built environment affects human wellbeing and incorporating design interventions that can improve the building occupant experience. Human Space views wellness through a lens of inclusion and our expertise lies in how to integrate wellness and accessibility in ways that do not conflict. Many current wellness strategies assume people are starting from the same level of ability, whereas we understand that these strategies often focus on able-bodied activity and that wellness is not a one-size-fits-all target for everyone to reach.
Incorporating wellness strategies when designing built environments leads to improved productivity and retention in the workplace, improved comfort and health in residences, and overall improved quality of life, to name a few benefits. There are plenty of statistics out there that support the economic argument for incorporating wellness into the design of built environments. For example, the Buffett National Wellness Survey found that organizations with effective health and productivity programs report 11% higher revenue per employee, 1.8 fewer days absent per employee per year, and 28% greater shareholder returns.
You should hire a wellness consultant for many of the same reasons you should hire an accessibility consultant – it is a specialty area of focus that most companies do not have the capacity to successfully implement when relying on their own in-house resources. There are also many proven economic and health benefits to incorporating wellness in your projects. You may not seek certification, but a wellness consultant can help you to strategically select tactics from those programs and integrate them into your project.
Similar to how the LEED system rates building excellence in environmentally-friendly building design, the WELL Building Standard is a global rating system for buildings, interior spaces and communities seeking to implement, validate and measure features that support and advance human health and wellness. Fitwel is another certification system that provides guidelines for designing buildings that optimize human health, focusing on commercial interiors as well as multi-unit residential buildings. Human Space has WELL AP and Fitwel Ambassador accredited team members that incorporate wellness strategies into our work.