Accessibility design standards & features

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Accessibility Design Standards

The City of Ottawa is committed to providing equal treatment to people with disabilities with respect to the use and benefit of City services, programs, goods and facilities in a manner that respects their dignity and that is equitable in relation to the broader public.

The City developed Accessibility Design Standards to ensure that all City owned and operated spaces and facilities are inclusive and accessible to everyone. This commitment extends to residents, visitors and employees with visible or non-visible disabilities.

The Accessibility Design Standards – Second Edition, November 2015 [ PDF - 6875 KB ] are mandatory and apply to both new construction and rehabilitation projects. The title pages, table of contents, and Section 1 of this document are available in both English and French. Due to its technical nature, the remainder of the document is available in English only.

In September 2020, the City issued a Technical Bulletin ISTB-2020-03 that incorporates a new Appendix 7.8 to the Accessibility Design Standards. The appendix provides interim guidance and direction on the design and installation of accessibility measures where a cycle track or multi-use pathway approaches an intersection.

Subsequently, in September 2021, the City issued the Protected Intersection Design Guide, which includes guidance on the design of accessibility features adjacent to cycle tracks, multi-use pathways, and protected intersections. The Protected Intersection Design Guide takes precedence over Technical Bulletin ISTB-2020-03 wherever the two documents contain contradictory guidance.

For more information on the Accessibility Design Standards, please contact

Accessible play structure and play area locations

The interactive map and table below display accessible play structure and play area locations. The number of play structures and play areas listed in the table will expand or contract as you zoom in, zoom out or pan the map view. You can also navigate to an area of interest by searching for a park name, address, intersection, street segment or city facility in the “Find address or place” search box. Clicking on a play structure or play area will display more information about that location.

Tactile Signage Program

Improving accessibility in City of Ottawa facilities

What are Tactile Signs?

Tactile means “understood through sense of touch”. Characters and pictograms are raised 0.8 to 1.5 mm above the surface, and have Grade 1 Braille located directly below the associated pictograph or large text. All doors within the public spaces of the facility will be identified with tactile signage. Drinking fountains, accessible routes, and information desks will be identified and directory signs will be included to help direct the public to major functional areas.  

Tactile Sign Program

The use of standardized, high-contrast tactile signs City of Ottawa initiated the Tactile Signage Program in an ongoing effort to removes barriers; and increases access to City facilities and helps visitors find what they are looking throughout City facilities. The City is phasing in the use of standardized, high-contrast tactile signs in all City of Ottawa public facilities. to help visitors find what they are looking for. The strategic placement and design of these signs is guided by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Standard B651-04 (Accessible Design for the Built Environment) and the City of Ottawa’s Visual Identity Standards.

 General guidelines for tactile signs:

  • Consistently located on the latch side of the door, where possible, at 150 mm from the door frame
  • Mounted at a consistent height, between 1175 mm and 1525 mm above the floor
  • Mounted on to the nearest adjacent wall where double-leaf doors are used or no wall space adjoins the door’s latch edge
  • Have a glare-free surface
  • Consistently shaped and coloured
  • Have highly contrasting colours
  • Include pictograms whenever possible (a pictogram is generic graphic representation of the purpose of or services provided)

For more information regarding the program please see the reception desk, or e-mail.

Tactile Walking Surface Indicators

What are Tactile Walking Surface Indicators?

Tactile Walking Surface Indicator (TWSI) means a standardized surface, detectable underfoot or by a long white cane, to assist people with low vision or blindness by alerting or guiding them.[1] Tactile means that it can be perceived using the sense of touch.

You can identify TWSIs at intersection corners, since they look like a flat plate with little bumps or domes sticking up in a geometric pattern.

Here is a photo of a TWSI:

Tactile walking surface

Why are they being used now in Ottawa?

TWSIs are used to alert people with low vision or no vision of hazards, such as moving car traffic at an intersection.

Under the Integrated Accessibility Standards of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, and the City of Ottawa Accessibility Design Standards, TWSIs are required for new construction and the redevelopment of elements in public spaces, such as for exterior paths of travel (e.g. sidewalks and at the top of stairs).

Where a curb ramp or depressed curb is provided on an exterior path of travel, a TWSI must be installed, and have a raised tactile profile and high tonal (colour) contrast to the adjacent surface.

Why are TWSIs important?

Many people who have visual impairments will benefit from TWSIs when they are navigating through our City. The TWSI provides an alert that there is a hazard ahead.

What are TWSIs made of?

For exterior applications, such as on sidewalks, the City of Ottawa has selected TWSIs that are made of cast iron or ductile iron. The uncoated iron is a long-lasting, maintenance-free and environmentally-friendly material. When the iron is initially exposed to moisture and air, it turns orange-brown and in the first year of installation, may stain the sidewalk. Over time, the orange-brown colour will wear away, but the naturally-dark iron patina is long-lasting. For people with low-vision, this provides an even greater tonal contrast with the sidewalk.

[1] “Illustrated Technical Guide to the Accessibility Standard for the Design of Public Spaces.”, GAATES, pg. 201.

Adapted from City of Toronto, “Tactile Walking Surface Indicators” and Neenah Foundry Company, “Unpainted Castings, Better for You and the Environment”.

Wayfinding maps

Wayfinding maps in City facilities

The City introduced the first tactile wayfinding map at the Walter Baker Sports Centre. 

A tactile map is read with your fingers and are designed for people with visual impairments. 

The wayfinding map is similar to “You Are Here” display directories at shopping centres but is placed lower to the floor and is mounted on a podium. It is a simplified version of the floor plan of the building, noting the major functional areas as well as washrooms and elevators. They are often bright and have high contrast colours and different textures to make features easier to identify and read.

The Design of Wayfinding maps

Tactile maps are not cluttered and adequate space is left between features for easy reading by touch. A legend is provided to the right side of the map with large text and Braille to identify features of the building. Each room includes a unique number, colour, and pictogram (a generic graphic representation of services provided in the location) or text to ensure that the map appeals to patrons with various needs. The name of the room or area is also provided in the legend.