Cheam Leisure Centre visitors use an elevator to access the ground floor as Jim Ryan (left) and Mayor Ken Popove chat during a tour of the building on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Ryan was pointing out some of the features at the centre that earned it the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certified Gold rating. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Cheam Leisure Centre visitors use an elevator to access the ground floor as Jim Ryan (left) and Mayor Ken Popove chat during a tour of the building on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Ryan was pointing out some of the features at the centre that earned it the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certified Gold rating. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Chilliwack’s Cheam Leisure Centre gets gold-level rating for accessibility from Rick Hansen Foundation

City of Chilliwack sets ‘inspiring example’ of how to make public spaces more accessible: Rick Hansen

Chilliwack’s Cheam Leisure Centre received a gold-level rating for accessibility from the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF).

The announcement came during Tuesday’s city council meeting where Rick Hansen was in attendance via video call on Dec. 7. The recreation centre achieved a Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certified Gold rating under the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program.

Hansen called it a “milestone” accomplishment.

“You are setting an inspiring example of how municipalities can work together to ensure meaningful accessibility in their civic sites,” Hansen said.

The Cheam Leisure Centre’s braille wayfinding signage is just one of the features which helped the rec centre earn the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certified Gold rating. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

The Cheam Leisure Centre’s braille wayfinding signage is just one of the features which helped the rec centre earn the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certified Gold rating. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

The RHFAC program helps improve accessibility in the places people live, work, learn, and play. The rating and gold certification covers the Cheam Leisure Centre’s entire 45,000 square-foot building, including the gymnasium, weight room, squash courts, change rooms, washrooms, meeting room, child minding room, swimming pools, and reception area. The outside area, including the entrances, parking lots, pathways, transit stops, and outdoor play area are also covered.

Hansen acknowledged Chilliwack resident and accessibility advocate Jim Ryan for his volunteer work with the City of Chilliwack to make the certification possible.

Ryan became a quadriplegic after suffering a spinal cord injury in March 2016. After his injury, he started working with the city to make Chilliwack more accessible.

“We live in a great city. As someone who’s disabled, a two-inch step is a barrier to me,” Ryan said. “When I reach these barriers and I reach out to the City of Chilliwack, these barriers are removed mostly within a week and always within a month.”

Jim Ryan (right) and Mayor Ken Popove chat during a tour of the Cheam Leisure Centre on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Ryan was pointing out some of the features at the centre that earned it the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certified Gold rating, like this accessible shower with a lift. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Jim Ryan (right) and Mayor Ken Popove chat during a tour of the Cheam Leisure Centre on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Ryan was pointing out some of the features at the centre that earned it the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certified Gold rating, like this accessible shower with a lift. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Earlier this year, the city asked Ryan to do an assessment for the RHFAC and although there were already many accessibility features at the Cheam Centre, Ryan helped identify where upgrades were needed so the city could bring it up to the gold standard.

In order to receive RHFAC gold-level rating, several accessibility improvements needed to happen, including:

• the addition of four new automatic door openers

• added proximity sensors on existing door openers

• exterior large facility signage on side entrances

• new concrete wheelchair letdown

• the creation of two new fully accessible washrooms in the basement, with emergency assistance systems

• braille wayfinding signage

• creation of area of refuge, complete with communications in the gym area

Jim Ryan (right) and Mayor Ken Popove chat during a tour of the Cheam Leisure Centre on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Ryan was pointing out some of the features at the centre that earned it the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certified Gold rating, like the wheelchair ramps in the pool. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Jim Ryan (right) and Mayor Ken Popove chat during a tour of the Cheam Leisure Centre on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Ryan was pointing out some of the features at the centre that earned it the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certified Gold rating, like the wheelchair ramps in the pool. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

One of the door opening features at the Cheam Leisure Centre which helped the rec centre earn the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certified Gold rating. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

One of the door opening features at the Cheam Leisure Centre which helped the rec centre earn the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certified Gold rating. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

All of the improvements were completed in August and now people like Ryan can enjoy the facility to the utmost, he said.

“It’s now pretty virtually wide open to all persons of all abilities,” Ryan said.

He added that it’s not just folks in wheelchairs, but people like seniors with mobility issues and those who cannot grip a door handle who also benefit.

The Mayor’s Task Force on Inclusiveness, Diversity, and Accessibility (MTFIDA) was established in the spring of 2020 to provide advice to council on strategies to reduce social, physical and psychological barriers that prevent people from fully participating in all aspects of community life. In February 2021, the MTFIDA Action Plan was released with goals and action items to move towards those goals.

“One of the goals of the MTFIDA action plan is to improve the city’s facilities, services, parks, and public spaces for persons with disabilities,” Mayor Ken Popove said. “This certification is a small step in the direction we want to go to make our facilities more accessible.”

READ MORE: Action plan aims to make Chilliwack more inclusive, diverse and accessible

“Gold-level is a really fantastic accomplishment and your leadership is going to inspire other municipalities across the country and around the world to start to rise to that level, to go beyond the minimum of code,” Hansen said.

Jim Ryan (right) and Mayor Ken Popove chat outside the Cheam Leisure Centre before a tour of the building on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Ryan was pointing out some of the features at the centre that earned it the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certified Gold rating. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Jim Ryan (right) and Mayor Ken Popove chat outside the Cheam Leisure Centre before a tour of the building on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Ryan was pointing out some of the features at the centre that earned it the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certified Gold rating. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)


 

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