Rick Hansen Foundation is giving Surrey $105,000 to make washrooms more accessible at various facilities throughout the city.
Through eight grants, the funding will be used to create automatic access to bathrooms at civic sites, among other accessibility upgrades.
One of the largest barriers for people in any facility is washroom access, said Tara Roberts, Manager of Support Services and Accessibility for Surrey.
“Automatic doors is something that, no matter your age, it can create a huge barrier,” she added. “We want to create a more inclusive city where people can live, work and play. And we want people to participate independently with limited supports. That’s why it’s so important for us in the last 10 years to really look at universal designs.”
Roberts noted when some of the city’s older civic sites were built, automatic doors were not required under the BC Building Code.
That’s why the city is thrilled with the foundation’s grant dollars that will pay for the upgrades throughout the city.
“When we talk about universal design, we aren’t just talking about those with disabilities, it also applies to our aging population, moms with strollers. Doors can be very heavy and that proves as a huge barrier,” she said.
The city is going to “move quickly” to get the installations complete, Roberts said, with work set to begin in November and wrap up next May.
The following upgrades will be made to facilities:
- Fleetwood Community Centre– automated access to washrooms – $12,452.47
- Guildford Recreation Centre – automated access to washrooms and features – $15,461.60
- Strawberry Hill Hall – automated access to washrooms – $13,413.40
- Don Christian Recreation Centre – automated access to washrooms – $10,903.20
- South Surrey Indoor Pool – automated washroom access, emergency call ball and signage – $10,2847.76
- Surrey Sport and Leisure Complex – universal washroom access – $11, 278.96
- Unwin Pool – change room upgrade and universal shower – $20,000
- Newton Recreation Centre – emergency call bell, lift for hot tub – $11, 278.96
All of the facilities have received varying levels of certification from the Rick Hansen Foundation, which is a prerequisite for applying for grants to upgrade accessibility features.
The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) is a rating system that uses trained professionals to “evaluate the meaningful access of commercial, institutional, and multi-unit residential buildings and sites.” The foundation notes that in Canada, almost half of adults have or have experienced a physical disability, or live with someone who has.
Once rated, a site may be certified at one of two levels, “RHF Accessibility Certified” or “RHF Accessibility Certified Gold.”
The City of Surrey says it is the highest participating city with the RHFAC program and has the most Accessibility Certified facilities of any city across Canada. Surrey has received four Accessibility Certified Gold ratings, at the Surrey Arts Centre, the Cloverdale and Chuck rec centres, as well as the Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre.
Surrey has made other efforts to make civic sites more accessible in recent months, including the introduction of a sensory-friendly space at the Museum of Surrey, in partnership with the Canucks Autism Network from 10 a.m. to noon on the first Sunday of each month.
As well, in May the city announced a permanent space at Grandview Aquatic Centre that is designed for individuals with autism and features low-lighting and low-sound. It’s described as British Columbia’s first aquatics sensory friendly space.
“Sensory friendly spaces are designated areas that have reduced input from the sensory environment,” notes the city’s website. “This includes decreased levels of lighting, sound and smell. Particularly helpful for individuals with autism, or anyone who is overwhelmed in busy public spaces, this space offers a wide range of elements to support relaxation, including comfortable seating, sensory toys, books, games and noise-cancelling headphones.”
For more information on Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification, visit rickhansen.com/RHFAC.
Visit surrey.ca/accessibility for more details on the City of Surrey’s accessibility efforts.