A park renovation has one Saanich mother frustrated about a lack of accessibility for people with disabilities in design processes for public amenities.
Andrea Carey has worked in inclusion and accessibility for many years, but when she heard they were planning a renovation on a park in her neighbourhood, she went to the District of Saanich in a personal capacity, as a mother and community member.
“We’ve shared a number of resources with them around how to build accessible spaces and structures – it didn’t feel like those were received or appreciated,” Carey said. “It just feels like there were lots of missed opportunities.”
Carey co-founded OneAbility, an organization that helps bring awareness to accessibility in recreation and she said they held a panel around accessible play spaces, but no one from Saanich attended despite being invited.
After providing feedback in other ways to Saanich council on the reduced accessibility of surfaces like wood chips, Carey was disappointed to see only that installed as a surface for the playground.
“I think one of the important pieces to recognize is that in the development of this, one: feedback on accessibility wasn’t taken but also in renderings, they’ve tokenized people with disabilities as a user group of this facility and yet they’ve built it so that it is not accessible for those very people,” Carey said.
Megan Catalano with the District of Saanich said the choice of the wood chips, also called Fibar, is in accordance with the standards of accessibility outlined in the Americans of Disabilities Act. She said the chips are being installed in place of sand in most Saanich playgrounds.
“Fibar engineered wood fiber surfaces are accessible, provided there is proper drainage, are installed correctly and are appropriately maintained,” Catalano said.
Carey said while rubberized surfaces are a better option for those who navigate with a mobility device such as a wheel chair or cane, they are also more expensive and Saanich told her budget and time constraints made opting for wood chips necessary.
Catalano said the playground will be monitored and resurfaced as needed, with the focus being on areas of high use to ensure the space remains accessible, but Carey is doubtful the park will be a space for everyone.
She would like to see better planning and allocations of funds for the renovation and construction of new public spaces.
Carey also said there are grants available for building more accessible surfaces, such as Tire Stewardship BC’s Community Grant Program.
“I think one of the things that is really important for us to consider as a society is that in 2023, we have over 22 per cent of the population in Canada identifying as having a disability,” Carey said. “We know that stat is going to increase as we have an aging demographic. We need to be planning for over a quarter of the population to be presenting with a disability and finding ways to make sure that we are building accessible structures, play surfaces and opportunities for people to engage in society.”