The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program is designed to help improve the accessibility to Canada’s existing environment through rating and certification as well as professional training.
RHF Accessibility Certification program will improve access across Canada
According to the Conference Board of Canada, GDP growth of $16.8 billion could be generated by 2030 if a certain segment of our population that is eager to work more had the infrastructure necessary to function with ease and comfort.
The segment in question is people with disabilities, which number 3.8 million (or one in seven) Canadians and will increase to up to 8.7 million (as many as one in five) over the next 18 years.
While the disabilities accounting for this segment are wildly diverse—from people with mobility challenges to those with vision, hearing, and cognitive disabilities—they are united by access challenges in offices, schools, and many other public spaces. But the Rick Hansen Foundation is already taking measures to change the landscape, via its new Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program.
Based on the philosophy that universal access to safe, inclusive, and accessible public spaces allows everyone to live to their full potential, the RHFAC program is designed to help improve the accessibility to Canada’s existing environment through rating and certification as well as professional training.
Years in development, the RHFAC program last November launched 60-hour professional training courses in Vancouver and Halifax to give lay people the knowledge and skills required to deliver RHFAC building ratings; subsequent courses will be conducted in Alberta and Ontario this fall. “In May we also launched an accelerated training program for building inspectors, architects, construction workers, and other industry professionals,” says Brad McCannell, Rick Hansen Foundation Vice-president, Access and Inclusion.
To which Sarah McCarthy, Rick Hansen Foundation Vice-president Strategic Initiatives, adds, “Our goal is to have 200 trained assessors operating across Canada by 2020.”
These assessors will employ a rating and certification system to determine the accessibility of commercial, institutional, and multi-family residential facilities. Once rated, a building may receive one of two certification levels: RHF Accessibility Certified or RHF Accessibility Certified Gold, with the option to be listed on the RHFAC registry hosted by CSA Group. “In developing our program, we were inspired by the LEED certification system that in a relatively short time has become the international hallmark of construction sustainability and highly coveted by both public and private developers,” says McCannell.
Just as LEED enhanced sustainability as a public issue has helped to modify the culture of construction worldwide, RHFAC aims to embed accessibility in the collective psyche of developers and builders. Purely from a business viewpoint, the initiative is valuable: the Conference Board of Canada points out that in addition to workplace improvements that allow Canadians with disabilities to work more—which in turn affects GDP growth—the boost to labour income would facilitate a $10-billion increase in consumer spending by 2030. Plus, the GDP and income gains would generate revenue gains of about $2.6 billion for the federal government and $1.8 billion for provincial governments.
But as McCannell notes, nurturing an accessibility culture also makes sense from a humanistic point of view. “Physical disability is not someone else’s problem: as our population ages, at some point we will all incur disabilities of varying degrees. Accessibility is therefore in everyone’s interest.”
For more information about the RHF Accessibility Certification program and the BC Accessibility Grants Program that provides financial help of up to $20,000 in accessibility improvement projects to companies that have been rated, visit rickhansen.com/RHFAC.