Inconsistent sidewalks, a lack of automatic doors and poorly designed wheelchair ramps has made accessing West Shore Parks and Recreation a challenge for people with mobility problems.
But the recreation centre is correcting its halphazard accessibility around the main Juan de Fuca building thanks to a $75,000 grant from the federal government’s enabling accessibility fund.
Prior to this project, WSPR staff discovered, for instance, that a sloped sidewalk curb on one side of a crosswalk led to a high curb that wheelchairs, scooters and strollers could not navigate.
“Now, when you come to the curb, you can continue on in a seamless, barrier-free path,” said Bobbi Neal, community development coordinator for WSPR. “When you want to promote alternative modes of transportation you want to make it as easy as possible.”
The sidewalk from the bus stop on Island Highway to the administration entrance is undergoing a complete overhaul and should be finished at the end of the month.
“It’s an all new sidewalk with a curb cut (for wheelchair use),” Neal, said adding the sidewalk has been widened and the shubbery has been cut back.
The administration entrance used to have two sets of stairs that needed maneuvering in order to enter, certainly a challenge for anyone in a wheelchair or walker. There was a tight narrow wheelchair ramp into the administration area, but no automatic door button to get into the building.
Now the stairs have been removed and replaced with a sloping sidewalk and the wheelchair ramp is widened and a door button installed.
“Wheelchairs and strollers are a lot bigger than they used to be 30 years ago,” Neal said.
In 2008, WSPR hosted the event Disability for Day, where municipal politicians and groups from across the West Shore took on the challenge of disabilities, including using wheelchairs and being blindfolded to simulate blindness. They then maneuvered the grounds and made notes on areas that they found challenging to navigate and access.
“We had a list of obstacles identified from that day,” Neal said.
Through out the main building, automatic door openers have been added helping people gain access to the curling rink and elevators. Neal pointed out there are many wheelchair curlers who use the facility but, there was no automatic door opener.
“We are looking at a more universal design so everyone can access (the facility) in a more user friendly way,” Neal said. “We want to literally make it accessible from the time they arrive here to the time they leave.”
Recreation Integration Victoria and Intermunicipal Advisory Committee on Disability Issues have been working with WSPR to identify areas requiring improvements and overseeing the project.
“IACDI is extremely please to learn (WSPR) got the money to create more accessibility improvement,” said Marnie Essery, IACDI chair. “We are very we are very excited to build on existing structures and to be more accessible for people of different ages and accessibility levels.”