On Tuesday, January 19th, Toronto Community Housing and the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD), with Mayor David Miller, unveiled a new partnership aimed at promoting accessible, inclusive design in social housing buildings.
The partnership is an important step towards improving access for Toronto Community Housing residents while engaging young designers in applied design research around the principles of universal/inclusive design, which challenges designers to recognize the diversity of possible end users and their various needs.
"When we talk about inclusiveness, it means for everybody," said Keiko Nakamura, Acting CEO of Toronto Community Housing. "Our partnership with OCAD reflects our continued focus on removing barriers, enhancing quality of life and moves us closer to a future in which all tenants and staff, including those with disabilities, are able to fully participate in all aspects of community life."
Inclusive design is a growing field, particularly in light of forthcoming legislation aimed at transforming the province into a fully accessible society by 2025 through the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
"I think this project is quite extraordinary," said Mayor David Miller following the announcement. "Toronto Community Housing is one of the leading landlords in the city and by working with OCAD, we're going to engage young people in applied research on how to make apartment buildings accessible for everyone. That will benefit every landlord not just in Toronto, but in this country. This project will show the way."
OCAD students will engage in this applied design research project using 275 Shuter St., a 1960s-built apartment in Toronto Community Housing's Moss Park community, as a case study. The research will focus on how residents engage with the building and provide an opportunity to test a variety of inclusive strategies and approaches to navigating common spaces.
"OCAD is really excited to be collaborating with Toronto Community Housing to really think how their properties can truly be accessible in every possible way," said OCAD President, Sara Diamond.
Toronto Community Housing will form an advisory group of tenants and staff and host open sessions at 275 Shuter St., giving tenants the opportunity to provide input. The research will lead to strategies and recommendations for modifications to existing buildings, as well as future development plans.
"I'm excited about what this research project can teach me," said Elyse Leffler, one of the OCAD students at the event. "As a future designer, it's about designing with a clear conscience, knowing that it's going to benefit someone else."
"I'm simply thrilled," said Elizabeth Jassem, Toronto Community Housing's lead on the project. "I'm looking forward to seeing the strategies and recommendations to come from the students take shape and contribute to making our buildings more accessible."
Beverly Smith, a tenant and member of Toronto Community Housing's Anti-Ableism Committee, a tenant-led group focused on raising awareness and advocating for those with disabilities, said OCAD students will help bring "fresh ideas and opportunities" and "accessible living" to tenants.
"I'm very proud and fortunate to live within Toronto Community Housing," she said. "It's great to see the support and excitement as we move forward to building stronger communities."