Waterfront Accessible Design Guidelines

More than twenty years ago the various levels of government committed to an upgrade of Toronto’s waterfront area. The Waterfront Toronto organisation was formed at that time. Since then parking lots and derelict buildings have given way to distinctively designed neighbourhoods. At the end of 2023 the Waterfront Accessible Design Guidelines were published.

“A key part of Toronto’s waterfront revitalization is providing safe, easy and enjoyable access for everyone to the shores of Lake Ontario.”

Image from the Toronto Waterfront Accessibility Guidelines

The Guidelines aim to go beyond minimum compliance and refer to many other guidance documents. For example, street design, pedestrian crossings, and cycling infrastructure.

An accessible waterfront

The section on the Waterfront covers docks and piers, gangways, canoe and kayak launching, and recreational fishing nodes. Boardwalks, pedestrian bridges, and water’s edge all receive attention. The Wave Deck is an interesting feature – more of an art installation than a place to walk or wheel. It is described architecturally as “whimsical” and inspired by the undulating shorelines. Because of the design, a separate and level path of travel is provided.

Liveable communities

The focus of this section is on the design of streets, play spaces, seating, and wayfinding. The advice for streets without kerbs is to have different surface finishes for the different zones. However, it is not clear how people who are blind or have low vision can negotiate these streets. This section does not include housing developments.

The guiding principles for the Guidelines are:

  • Nothing without us
  • Raising the bar for diversity and inclusion
  • Promoting wellness
  • Pursuing design excellence
Aerial view from Toronto Tower across the bay and waterfront showing buildings, roadways and a marina.

The guide is titled, Waterfront Accessibility Design Guidelines: Creating an Accessible Waterfront. The waterfront webpage has more general information about this extensive redevelopment and other documents.

Accessibility Toolbar