Centred on sport, but with a mandate that also encompasses life skills training and cultural programs, the Abilities Centre is a fully accessible building that does not ‘announce’ it was designed for people with disabilities. Instead of contributing to any group’s stigmatization and marginalization, this facility’s architecture is seamlessly enabling: it embodies the idea that we can best understand how to relate to one another when we are all part of an integrated, inclusive community.
The Abilities Centre’s field house encloses a six-lane International Association of Athletics Federations 200-metre track and three full regulation basketball courts within a distinctive volume – an extruded partial parabola, supported by 3-dimensional trusses on a 10-metre grid and capped at its east and west ends with a proprietary translucent glazing system that enables light to penetrate deeply and evenly. In addition to reducing the need for artificial lighting in the field house, this treatment reduces the sharp contrasts between light and dark that can be disturbing to individuals on the autism spectrum.
Designed to LEED® Silver standards, the facility also contains a double-height lobby, reception area and café, a fitness centre, offices, and play area. Spaces on the second-floor mezzanine include multi-purpose rooms, an art room, music room, library, and a Living Skills suite—an accessible, fully furnished model apartment designed to help individuals acquire or regain skills needed for more autonomous living.
Should an emergency evacuation be required, a ramp through the lobby, in conjunction with an advanced smoke exhaust system, allows non-ambulatory occupants to exit quickly and safely.
During the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, the Abilities Centre hosted the Parapan Judo and Boccia events and was also used as a Parapan training facility. In 2013, it received significant international recognition: an Award of Distinction from the International Olympic Committee/International Paralympic Committee/International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities.