Rick Hansen Foundation Partners to Improve Building Accessibility in Canada

Written by Brad McCannell, Vice President, Access and Inclusion, Rick Hansen Foundation

Recently, the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) and Athabasca University (AU) announced their partnership to offer the first of its kind online RHFAC Accessibility Assessor training course.  The new online course, which is available this fall, will use immersive technology to train individuals to improve the accessibility of buildings and spaces across the country using Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™ (RHFAC)

Similar to the existing course being offered at many bricks-and-mortar post-secondary institutions across the country, this new online course will provide participants with the fundamental skills and knowledge required to rate a building using RHFAC – a rating system that helps both owners and tenants measure the level of meaningful accessibility of their sites.  The online course will allow participants who would not otherwise be able to physically attend the in-person course with an option for digital training.

Changing reality with VR

The innovative online course incorporates virtual reality into its curriculum, including:

  • A ‘Virtual Reality (VR) Accessibility Simulation,’ which uses 360-degree footage so participants can remotely experience accessibility barriers and rate the built environment.  This simulation will be accessible via mobile phones and Virtual Reality headsets.
  • ‘Virtual Field Work Interactive’ where participants rate real-world environments to evaluate the meaningful access of commercial, institutional, and multi-unit residential buildings.  The buildings showcased will be captured using a 3D laser scanning tool to create a virtual floor plan for learners to engage with, accurately scaled to the millimetre.

These virtual reality exercises – all offered in a coached digital environment – will provide participants with a higher degree of immersion, and allow participants to check their own work against that of expert professionals.

Athabasca leading the way

Athabasca University is a leader in digital learning and is delivering the online version of RHFAC Accessibility Assessor training this fall.  Athabasca’s focus on accessibility and innovative technology advancements will ensure people have access to high-quality learning and are equipped with the standardized, professional skills to rate buildings on their level of meaningful access for people of all abilities.

“Athabasca University is a leader in digital learning and I’m thrilled we are partnering to deliver an online version of RHFAC Accessibility Assessor training,” said Rick Hansen, Founder of the Rick Hansen Foundation.  “Athabasca’s focus on accessibility and innovative technology advancements will ensure people have access to high quality learning and are equipped with the standardized, professional skills to rate buildings on their level of meaningful access for people of all abilities.”

“At Athabasca University we are committed to leading the way in digital accessibility and inclusivity,” said Dr. Neil Fassina, President at Athabasca University.  “By working with partners, like the Rick Hansen Foundation, we share a greater purpose to elevate the social good and remove barriers in our communities for a diverse array of learners.  By presenting digital and distributed educational options in collaboration with the Rick Hansen Foundation, we’re helping to transform communities and empowering individuals to realize their true potential.”

Jessica Scott, Director, Professional and Corporate Relations, Athabasca University, said, “We are excited to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation to develop and deliver an enriched digital offering of the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor training course. Through our partnership, we will provide RHFAC with the digital infrastructure to expand their reach to offer the training across Canada and globally, to help identify physical barriers in public places and spaces, and improve accessibility in our communities.”

RHFAC Accessibility Assessor training is currently offered at post-secondary institutions across the country including Vancouver Community College, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, George Brown College, Nova Scotia Community College and Carleton University.  The new online course offered through Athabasca University will be available this fall to individuals meeting pre-requisites including experience working in the built environment, particularly architects, engineers, urban planners, and design-builders.

To learn more about RHFAC Accessibility Assessor training, visit: RickHansen.com/Training


About the Author

Brad McCannell’s expertise in the area of disability comes from both personal experience and practical knowledge.  In 1992, he formed Canadian Barrier Free Design Inc. to fill the gap between the building code requirements and the real needs of people with disabilities.
As a leader in the field of accessibility for the past 25 years, Brad has extensive experience in the application of universal design across the built environment, providing accessibility consultations for buildings and organizations including Rogers Arena, Richmond Olympic Oval, Vancouver International Airport, University of British Columbia, and various Olympic and Paralympic Games.


About the Rick Hansen Foundation

In 1985, Rick Hansen set out on the Man in Motion World Tour; a 26 month, 34 country, 40,000 km wheelchair marathon. The Tour raised $26 million and changed the way people with disabilities were perceived.  The Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF), established in 1988, is part of its legacy.  For over three decades, RHF has raised awareness, changed attitudes and funded spinal cord injury research and care.
Today the Foundation is still working on breaking down one of the most fundamental barriers that people with disabilities still face: physical barriers in the places where we live, work, learn, and play.