The YMCA-YWCA Westhills is buying an accessible changing room lift after years of false starts on the idea.
While the facility had a lift to help people get into the pool, there was no lift in the changing room to allow people with accessibility issues to get changed.
But after meeting with the City of Langford on Thursday (March 9), the facility has now reached out to suppliers to buy and install a lift, according to Derek Gent, chief executive officer of YMCA-YWCA of Vancouver Island, who said initial estimates forecasted the cost would be around $15,000 to $20,000.
Heather Finlay asked about the lack of a lift after the facility first opened in 2016 and was told the YMCA-YWCA was looking into it. Finlay’s daughter Kyla Finlay-Johnson has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair and needs a lift to help her change. But over the intervening years, whenever Finlay asked management or wrote letters to the organization about the situation, she felt she was being brushed off.
“I’m happy that we’ve gotten to this point, but as a parent who comes against how inaccessible our world can be, it’s discouraging that a new building recently built is not built accessible in the first place. So as happy as I am that we’ve gotten there, it’s still a bit discouraging that it has to be an afterthought,” she said. “Inclusion and accessibility are often an afterthought, and then it requires advocating, and then things being done retroactively – which logistically is actually probably much more expensive.”
Finlay also works as an inclusive education teacher at Pexsisen Elementary helping kids with disabilities and says the problems with inaccessible buildings and resources are commonplace.
In a letter Finlay sent to the YMCA and the City of Langford, Finlay’s son Greyson Finlay-Johnson, who is 11, said the inaccessible changing rooms meant they couldn’t go swimming as a family.
“It makes me feel a little angry that they didn’t even consider what different people need in different situations and that people like my sister are forgotten. Different families have different needs and it is confusing that they would forget about some people,” he wrote. “I don’t get a lot of opportunities to do a lot of activities with my sister and swimming is something that we can do together.”
Sooke School District board chair Ravi Parmar also flagged the issue, saying that some SD62 programming had to be moved to West Shore Parks and Recreation location in Colwood, meaning bus time and “lost booking time for the YMCA,” Parmar wrote in a letter sent on March 3 to the City of Langford. Parmar said that after he’d asked about adding the lift, the YMCA-YWCA had cited financial concerns as a hurdle to installing one.
The “Y” location in Langford has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after the organizatiion went to Langford council asking for an extra $950,000 in subsidy funding annually to help keep the lights on at the facility. Without the money, the YMCA said they would have to start closing the facility on March 31.
Council voted in favour of the committee of the whole’s recommendation to give the organization the money during the Monday (March 6) council meeting. It comes with strings though, including a review of the facility’s operations and governance structure. Council also directed staff to enter into negotiations with Westhills to buy the recreation facility.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.