For over 20 years, Keith Benjamin has been an active advocate for the disabled. He has developed a sincere interest in achieving and providing design that pushes beyond the code whenever possible.
As a licensed Architect in the state of California Bob Abrahams was required to study advanced accessibility issues.
In our access-advocacy work, we have developed a modular path system, which provides an instant accessible path of travel over irregular surfaces and between level changes. It provides access from the interiors of buildings to the exterior and throughout the outdoor environment, regardless of the substrate: sand, gravel, grass, snow.
OPEN Architects keeps a wheelchair, cane and black-out mask in the office in order to test out maneuverability conditions that are not covered in the code and, therefore, require more consideration.
OPEN Architects is compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA). We understand the term disability as defined by the AODA. However, we do not differentiate between people with disabilities and people without. We have extended the definition to be universal in itself. We are all persons with “varied abilities” and we all need to be afforded universal opportunity and access. This applies to our employees just as it does our clients.
As a 10-person company, we are required to comply with 11 AODA requirements, as summarised below, but we strive to achieve universality for everyone:
1. We have established policies, practices and procedures to provide goods and services to people with “varied abilities.”
2. We use reasonable efforts to ensure that our policies, practices and procedures are consistent with the core principles of independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity.
3. We have a policy on allowing people to use their own personal assistive devices to access our premises and to use our services and we are constantly taking measures to address and extend access to all aspects of our facility, personnel, job opportunities and culture.
4. We communicate with all persons of “varied abilities” in a manner that takes into account his or her ability.
5. We permit anyone to be accompanied by their dog or service animal on our premises.
6. We permit anyone to be accompanied by another individual–be they support persons or not–while accessing goods or services on the premises.
7. We do not levy discriminatory charges or extra charges for those requiring special circumstances.
8. We always endeavour to provide notice when facilities or services that people with “varied abilities” rely on are temporarily disrupted.
9. Employees, co-op personnel, contractors and anyone who interacts with the public or third parties on our behalf are trained on a number of topics as outlined in the customer service standard. We also have no tolerance for actions that are not properly considered.
10. We train staff, administration, marketing personnel, co-op personnel, contractors and anyone involved in developing our policies, practices and procedures on the provision of goods or services on a number of topics as outlined in the customer service standard.
11. We always invite feedback on how we perform at all levels and in that approach we are very open to any comments, criticism, or suggestions about our actions or services with people of “varied abilities.” Because we are a small practice, we address input by making changes promptly. We share those changes, developments, and improvements with those who suggest them and we announce these changes through the appropriate media.