The Invictus Games are coming to Toronto.
Founded in 2014, the Invictus Games are a sporting event for injured armed services personnel and veterans. With competitors coming from around the world, this is an important global event. Moreover, it's an event that recognises Toronto's commitment to accessibility and equal access for all.
At the recent 2015 PanAm/Parapan Am games, accessibility was a top priority. Infrastructure Ontario (IO) made that clear at the outset. They fulfilled that initial promise with a series of universally accessible venues, which have in turn made it possible for Toronto to host Invictus in 2017.
This is a powerful statement - the inclusion of accessible features at the PanAm/Parapan Am Games has attracted another international event to Toronto. It is a sign that investment in accessibility matters, not just to Torontonians, but around the globe.
Large public infrastructure projects can be risky. They are expensive, they have specific uses and the events they are built for have a limited time frame. What we can learn from the 2015 games is that investment in inclusivity mitigates these risks.
Even if the Invictus Games had not chosen Toronto, the universal design of these buildings has lasting value. Community groups and individuals alike can use these buildings no matter their ability. The elderly, often excluded by buildings lacking accessible features, can confidently use any of these facilities knowing they will not encounter any barriers. National and local organizations hosting adaptive sporting events will be able to leverage these facilities into bigger and better events.
The success of these universally designed buildings lies in the initial prioritization of accessibility. One of the first steps IO took was to bring our AccessAbility Advantage team on-board. This early involvement allowed for building and site development that were inherently accessible. Universal design features were not jammed in or included through hasty renovations, but planned and integrated holistically.
From start to finish, the designs of these venues served everyone. As these building are used again on the international stage, hopefully it will be clear that investment in universal access is an investment in a lasting legacy – a legacy that benefits everyone, regardless of ability.