Rosedale’s Ramsden Park plan for a new ramp and stairs is more accessible… but may not be AODA compliant

11:50 a.m. Oct. 26, 2017. View looking down the stairs and ramp to be replaced at the Hillsborough Avenue entrance to Ramsden Park.

Oct. 27, 2017

By Arianne Robinson

The design plan for a new ramp and stairs at Rosedale’s Ramsden Park were presented at the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee on Wednesday. Dave Nosella, project manager for Capital Construction, Parks, Forestry and Recreation, and Dan Connolly, senior project coordinator for Parks, Forestry and Recreation, gave a presentation followed by deputations from neighbouring residents and questions and comments from committee members.

Currently there are two sets of stairs with a wooden handrail on the side, and a winding paved path that zigzags through the staircase. The new plan follows the same logic, but zigzags almost three times more, has four short flights of stairs instead of two longer ones, and handrails on either sides of the ramp and staircases, except for the sections where they intersect.

The lack of handrails in these areas was a cause for concern for members of the committee. Rahima Mulla, vice-chair of the committee, was first to bring up the issue. “I have a question. Overlapping stairs and ramps, because handrails can be continuous, [but in this case] if the ramp is broken up by stairs– ?”

“We’ve given that question to our consultant,” a city staff member said. “Our direction to them was to ensure that the design that they come up with is compliant with AODA [Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act].”

But Nicole Cormier, the AODA accessibility consultant for the City of Toronto, said at the committee, “The [AODA] requirements for handrails is that they be continuous on either side.”

Committee member Wendy Porch expanded on the necessity for support on either side of the stairs and ramp. “The railings are not just there for people with visual disabilities, we can see how having a continuous railing helps somebody who’s blind or has a visual disability,” Porch said. “But for people who have difficulties with balance, for people who have difficulties walking, for older folks too, you think about taking your mom up and down a railing, up and down a ramp, they will rely on the railing as a continuous support throughout traversing that space.”

At the same meeting, Rosedale residents expressed their support or dismay for the design. Mary-Helen Spence, of the ABC Residents Association, told the committee, “we think we can do better, we think there are other options and we want the time and the opportunity to explore those. There have never been any other options provided to us,” Spence said.

Another neighbourhood resident, William Schiller, said he wants to see it go ahead. “I wholly support the campaign to have proper accessibility here. I applaud the councillors’ efforts in terms of the public consultation and why this is coming up now really leaves me mystified,” Schiller said.

Councillor Janet Davis, also a committee member, supported moving forward with the design plan. “We kind of have competing interests. I know this is very difficult. I know that accessibility should prevail. But we also have other obligations in environmentally sensitive areas,” Davis told the committee. “But I don’t think we should hold it up… consultation’s taken place over the three years, and I think while it isn’t an ideal pathway, when you’re attempting to build in these very challenging areas with slopes that are this extreme, we have to try and meet the requirements of the AODA for sure and make sure it’s as accessible we can make it.”

Davis moved a motion for “The comments made by the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee and the deputants regarding accessibility – in particular, the issue of the continuous railing – be referred to Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff for consideration in the proposed redeveloped entrance to Ramsden Park from Hillsboro Avenue.”

No motion was moved regarding improving on the aesthetic of the proposed ramp and stairs.

The staircase from the Hillsborough Avenue entrance to Ramsden Park.
The staircase from the Hillsborough Avenue entrance to Ramsden Park.
From the top of the park’s current ramp, the left path leads to stairs, the right leads to another path. One of 15 trees planned to be removed is seen in between.
From the top of the park’s current ramp, the left path leads to stairs, the right leads to another path. One of 15 trees planned to be removed is seen in between.
A birdseye view of the design for the new stairs and ramp.
A birdseye view of the design for the new stairs and ramp.
Idea for a suspended ramp brought to the committee by the ABC Residents Association.
Idea for a suspended ramp brought to the committee by the ABC Residents Association.