I was at Jack Astors on Front St Toronto, and I asked where the washrooms were and was told they are down stairs. I noticed that a lot of businesses and restaurants in Toronto have their washrooms in the basement, what is with that? Most businesses and restaurants in Toronto are most likely inaccessible because, like Jack Astors, there is a massive flight of stairs to access it. This is completely unacceptable. Never mind the fact that the Jack Astors entrance is inaccessible because stairs are the first obstacle to reach the door, the interior is inaccessible – it is cramped and there are stairs to the washroom.
Being able-bodied it is very easy to assume an organization or business is compliant to accessibility requirements because it has designated parking spots, ramps to entrances, and automatic doors. Visibly, most organizations and businesses look accessible. When you really look at the spaces though, you may notice inside the building it is difficult to navigate. You really have to stop and think to properly assess if a corridor is wide enough, if there are steps to the washrooms, if the tables are spaced enough to reach areas of the restaurant, if there are ramps broken up with stairs, if inside doors are automatic, if tables are deep enough that a wheelchair can fit underneath comfortably, and so on. It is unfortunate that accessibility is compromised for the sake of artistic designers trying to make stairs and ramps look cool. See the hybrid stairs for example, not only are they completely impractical, they are hazardous. I don’t know about you, but I am a bit clumsy, walking up stairs that have ramps slanted into them would make me trip. Now, imagine this experience for someone who is in a wheel chair, the slopes and angles of these ramps are dangerous (there are no railings), and for the visually impaired or seniors, could easily misstep into a set of stairs.
And then there are these:
The impracticality of these stairs/ramps is upsetting. This design is completely hazardous for all populations. Why a designer would even propose this impractical idea is beyond me. This is hazardous on so many levels: split ramp is dangerous for obvious reasons, nevermind the fact that it is at a ridiculously unacceptable incline.
I will admit, it is challenging as an able-bodied person to properly identify if a building is accessible because it is so easy to focus on the entrance of the building and not the accessibility of the interior. It is important for designers and engineers to truly consider the accessibility of their designs to ensure that the organizations they are working for are inclusive with their accessibility. Just because it looks cool doesn’t mean that it is cool.
Look at this restaurant image. They may have accessible entrances but the combination of busy-ness and layout is inaccessible. It is unfortunate that many places I have visited in Toronto are similar to these cramped, small places.