To the City of Kingston, accessibility is top-of-mind. When the opportunity to have sites rated through the RHFAC Complimentary Rating Program in Ontario became available, the City saw it as a good chance to advance access across the community.
“As a municipality, all the facilities belong to the community, so we need to make sure everyone has access and everyone can be included,” Jeff Rempel, Manager, Facilities Construction Services at the City of Kingston said. “We have modern buildings and 200-year-old heritage buildings and they only come to life when people are inside them, so we have to make sure they’re as inclusive as possible.”
Rempel explained that the City is “always looking for opportunities to learn and increase understanding of accessibility and inclusion.”
According to Rempel, the city has a variety of accessibility consultation mechanisms in place already in that they used prior to the RHFAC rating process. First, they have the Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC), which is made up of one council member and 14 volunteers, many of whom have lived experience. They report to Council on accessibility issues faced by people with disabilities.
The City also has the Facility Accessibility Design Standards (FADS). This document outlines City-wide standards that help build a universally-designed and accessible community for residents, visitors and employees. Rempel explained that the FADS are a series of design features developed in consultation with the city and MAAC. They are more stringent than Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and seek to ensure the community is as accessible as possible.
With these tools in hand, the City of Kingston was excited to be rated using the RHFAC methodology.
“It was a great experience to explore the buildings with the RHFAC Professional and their unique knowledge. We learned about some great things we hadn't thought about and affirmed what we had already,” Rempel said.
Kingston East Community Centre
The City of Kingston had two community centres rated during the process, one of which stood out to Rempel.
The Kingston East Community Centre is the most accessible facility in the city, having achieved 90% on their RHFAC rating survey – RHFAC Gold – as well as being net zero. Accessibility was considered during the construction process, allowing for it to be proactively addressed. Rempel explained that they were able to get the RHFAC Professional into the building before it was opened near the end of construction for a rating.
Some of the accessible features of the buildings include accessible washrooms with adult change tables, adjustable height desks in offices and kitchen spaces, and the building was built at grade so there’s no ramp and everyone can use the same entryway.
“Everyone uses the building in the same way,” Rempel said of the facility, which opened earlier this year.
The Future of Accessibility
The City of Kingston has plans to continue to improve accessibility, including a multi-year plan to increase access and inclusion across the city. Rempel explained that it is a living plan and is updated regularly. The plan is currently open for public comments.
As Rempel said:
“Accessibility changes over time, especially as technology evolves, any accessibility plan needs to be everchanging.”