Mission Statement

Public Space and Sustainability

A sustainable community is one that is consistently improving and evolving to meet the needs and goals of the individuals who reside within it. More people are choosing to live in cities and it is projected that 75 percent of the overall population will live in an urban environment by the mid-century. The sustainability of future communities depends on access to public space that recognizes the specific needs and desires of a community.

What is Accessibility and Public Space?

Enacting public accessibility involves the process of designing space functionality to ensure usability for individuals with a wide range of abilities and needs. Ultimately, this will lead to public spaces being accessible to all. A public space is an area that is intended to be used by the general public, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age or socio-economic level. These public gathering places include but are not limited to:

· Green Spaces
· Gardens
· Playgrounds
· Recreational Centres
· Libraries
· Plazas & Squares
· Community Halls

Benefit of Public Spaces

Urban public spaces provide many benefits to cities and the communities within them. Open public spaces encourage community building and engagement, strengthen environmental connectivity and promote economic growth. Access to public space fosters a sense of belonging which directly influences the sustainability of community prosperity. Furthermore, a well used public space is a great indicator of the overall quality of an urban environment.

The App: AccessToronto

In Ontario, the laws surrounding accessibility are varied. This means that it is not guaranteed that a public space will be accessible to everyone. The intended goal of AccessToronto is to support sustainability as it relates to community well-being and urban development by highlighting information regarding public space accessibility. This information can be used by community members as well as the City of Toronto and those interested in urban planning. This application will help combat the issue of inaccessibility of public spaces in the Greater Toronto Area by allowing community members to input and search locations that may meet their specific accessibility needs. AccessToronto also allows users to input new information or edit existing information about attributes of specific locations. When barriers to accessibility are addressed, communities are strengthened and elevated, aiding in the sustaining momentum of urban advancements.

How It Works

AccessToronto has two main interfaces:
1. Interface for users to search for a public space based on their accessibility needs
2. Interface for users to input accessibility features of a public space


Users are able to choose from a selection of types of public spaces, provided in the app, that they are interested in accessing. Types of public spaces that are provided include:

Green Space
Recreation Centre
Community Hall

Users are then able to further specify the functionality parameters that they require from a space by choosing from the provided options in the app. Searchable accessibility features include:

Reserved parking
Service Animal Friendly
Automatic Doors
Braille Signs
Auditory Signal

ASL Friendly
Fragrance Free
Water Fountain
Lighting Intensity
Noise Level
Slope Level

When users click the search button, public spaces that satisfy the input parameters are shown on the map. A pop-up for each space is provided and includes information regarding the address and accessibility features.


Users can input and update locations to enhance upon AccessToronto’s database of public spaces within the Greater Toronto Area. To add and share a new public space, a user can click the “Create New Space” button located at the bottom of the input panel, then identify the location on the map. After a location is selected, the “Create new accessible location” window will prompt the user to report the following:

· Name
· Address
· Type of Space
· Accessibility Features

The user can then click the “Submit” button at the end of the form to finish the process.

Update a Space

The user will also have the option to update the existing information for a public space on the map. To do this, the user can click on the point of interest on the map to display the associated pop-up window. Clicking on the ‘more options icon’ located in the bottom right corner provides a drop-down menu ***check and see what it actually is, with an “Edit” option. Choosing this will bring the user to the “Edit Location” form, which is similar to the “Add New Accessible Space” form. The user can make the necessary updates and then click “Submit”. Upon completion of the process, a confirmation message indicating that the location has been updated is displayed.

Limitations and Potential Modifications

Due to limitations in data availability regarding current accessibility features, members of GISt the 4 of Us created data to be included in the app to allow for demonstration of app capabilities and usage. This data includes accessibility information about green spaces, gardens, playgrounds, and plazas.

We love this app and imagine a bright future for it. Here are some key modifications we would like to include:

· The option to provide directions to a chosen point of interest based on a starting location provided by the user.
· Providing routes that include travel via public transportation and
· In-app text customization including larger font size and inverted
· More language options
· The option to add pictures of the space and its features which would be included in the pop-up

Data Sources and Acknowledgements

Data available within the application was obtained from the City of Toronto Open Data Portal. This includes information regarding streets and roads, public buildings, and open green spaces. Map and web application created using ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online and Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS software by Esri. Thank you to Dave MacLean at the Centre of Geographic Sciences for guidance during the development of AccessToronto.

The Team

It's GISt the 4 of us!
Team photo
Catherine Ozon
Freedom is her greatest treasure, Catherine has a deep love for adventure and travel. With a B.A in Geography from Mount Allison University, Catherine is completing an Advanced Diploma in Geographic Sciences with a concentration in Remote Sensing at the Centre of Geographic Sciences. Her enthusiasm has no bounds, Catherine possess a great sense of humor and open mindedness.

Mikaela Bennett
An optimistic go-getter capable of finishing several things at once, often before lunch, Mikaela is a graduate from the University of Guelph with a B.A in Geography. She is currently attending the Centre of Geographic Sciences, enrolled in the Advanced Diploma in Geographic Sciences with a GIS focus. With youthful strength and energy, Mikaela embraces togetherness and teamwork.

Carol Davis
Carol loves GIS analysis, remote sensing studies, going to the beach and hiking, however there is never time for two of those things. As a recent B.Sc Environmental Geoscience graduate from Acadia University, Carol is continuing her educational journey at the Centre of Geographic Sciences through the Advanced Diploma in Geographic Sciences program with a concentration in Remote Sensing

Ben Mannell
There are no impossible problems, only impossible timelines. Ben is a Computer Science graduate from Brock University currently completing an Advance Diploma in Geographic Science with a focus in GIS at the Centre of Geographic Sciences. With a love for the outdoors, Ben is fascinated by balance and symmetry, and is always on the hunt for justice and equality.