Select municipalities across B.C. were awarded with funding to advance accessibility earlier this year, thanks to the Rick Hansen Foundation. Two months later, some of the improvements, trainings and ratings are coming to light.
Through their participation in the B.C. Grants Program, eight B.C. communities who have committed to improving accessibility received up to $82,000 in funding for improvements of existing sites, accessibility training for city staff and complimentary RHF Accessibility Certification. The grants were awarded on Mar. 9.
The Accessibility Certification is a rating and recognition program that measures the meaningful accessibility of a site based on the experiences of those with varying disabilities, such as mobility, vision and hearing. Some features include entranceways, emergency systems, vehicle access, accessible washrooms and wayfinding signage.
The municipalities of Coquitlam, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, Port Moody, Prince George, Richmond and Whistler participated in the program and were awarded the grants based on population and geographic representation.
Coquitlam selected the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex, Dogwood Pavilion and the Town Centre Park Community Centre for the RHF evaluations and upgrades, based on size, scope and value for their residents. More information will be provided by the city once the upgrades proceed.
City Hall, Sagebrush Theatre and Brocklehurst Arena are the three sites that were chosen for improvements in Kamloops.
“Those were the three venues that received facility audits,” said Ben Chobater, community development coordinator of the City of Kamloops. “However, the grant funding can be applied to a single larger project at one facility or multiple smaller projects at more than one facility.”
The city will be meeting early next week to discuss other project ideas to determine where the rest of the money should be allocated.
The three Kelowna facilities that were assessed are the Okanagan Heritage Museum, Kelowna Community Theatre and Parkinson Activity Centre.
“The certification ratings are helping City staff understand the accessibility opportunities within these three facilities,” said Michelle Kam, grants and special projects manager of the City of Kelowna. “City staff are currently working with the Rick Hansen foundation on priority options for this funding and expect to move to project completion by the end of the year.”
The Nanaimo Aquatic Centre, Bowen Complex and Frank Crane Arena were audited by the RHF.
“The audits were very detailed and identified some issues for us,” said Mike Bryson, manager of recreation facilities & custodial services of the City of Nanaimo. “There is always room for improvement and we are excited to have the opportunity to turn our facilities from Certified to Gold Certified by making some key changes.”
Visual emergency alarms, better use of signage, mobility upgrades to washroom facilities and better accessibility spaces at reception areas are the main areas that will be improved.
“There will be a few more projects as we move through this,” said Bryson. “For now, these items will make a world of difference to our disabled patrons and the overall experience they have in our facilities.”
The Port Moody sites that have been accessed are the Arts Centre, The Port Moody Recreation Centre, and the Civic Centre which includes City Hall, Inlet Theatre and the Port Moody Public Library.
“The City is in the process of reviewing the accessibility certification ratings,” said Natasha Vander Wal, communications specialist of the City of Port Moody. “The timeline for completion of any upgrades will be determined after the City has had a chance to review the recommended improvements and consider budget implications.”
Accessibility ratings were accessed to City Hall, the Plaza Parkade and the Two Rivers Art Gallery in Prince George.
“City Hall and the Two Rivers Art Gallery are now registered on the RHFAC Registry as they received a score of over 60 per cent,” said Kendall Robertson, communications coordinator of the City of Prince George.
“In addition, City staff are participating in accessibility awareness training programs created by the Rick Hansen Foundation next week called Accessible Workplaces: Supporting People with Disabilities In-Person and Online.”
Facilities in Richmond that were chosen for improvements are the City Centre Community Centre, Minoru Centre for Active Living and the Richmond Animal Shelter. More details will be released once the projects have started.
The Whistler Olympic Plaza washrooms, Myrtle Phillip Community Centre and Maura Young Arts Centre were accessed in the resort municipality. The funds for these projects are expected to arrive at the end of the month.
“We’ve submitted estimates for the materials, products and labour to improve these sites to the Rick Hansen Foundation,” said Jill Brooksbank, senior communications officer of the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
Work is scheduled to begin in the coming weeks on a universal washroom at Meadow Park Community Centre.