MaRS Library Towards an Accessible Future: Ontario Innovators in Accessibility and Universal Design
There are 4.4 million people with disabilities in Canada today – 14.3% of the population. People are living longer and having fewer children, resulting in an aging population that is expected to be a key factor in the doubling of the number of people with disabilities in the next two decades. The types of disabilities faced by Canadians are varied – and can be physical, emotional, or cognitive. They can be visible or invisible, short-term or long-term, or episodic.
In 2005, Ontario was one of the first jurisdictions in the world to enact legislation (the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act [AODA]) that set specific enforceable goals for accessibility, with mandatory reporting for all organizations (public and private). The goal of the AODA is to create an inclusive society where everyone can participate to his or her full potential, creating a level playing field for all Ontarians.
Why make Ontario more accessible? It’s the right thing to do! It’s also the smart thing to do. A more accessible Ontario will accelerate the growth of prosperity in the province: increased per capita GDP, creation of new intellectual property enhancing the province’s global competitiveness, increased efficiency and productivity, $1.5 billion in new tourism spending and up to $9.6 billion in retail spending are some of the benefits.
The real opportunity, however, lies in the emerging Universal Design movement. Well-designed products, services and environments using Universal Design principles not only serve the needs of people with disabilities, but are more broadly useful, and positively impact the wider population. It is estimated that the adoption of Universal Design principles across numerous market segments in the US and Ontario is a $2 trillion business opportunity for startups, entrepreneurs, and innovators.
This report examines the challenges Ontario faces with its aging population, the market opportunity to service this demographic, and the case for adopting Universal Design principles to benefit all Ontarians. Profiles of leading innovators in this space are also highlighted.