Saanich moves to make rec centre access easier for those with disabilities

The District of Saanich is making it easier for people with disabilities to access leisure facilities by simplifying the process to acquire a pass that allows for free entry to accompanying support workers.

Recreation Integration Victoria currently provides the free Leisure Assistant Pass, which allows one support person to accompany a person with a disability to recreation centres, including facilities in Saanich.

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The District of Saanich has started providing the pass directly to patrons in an effort to streamline the process.

Cristina Caravaca, manager of community services in Saanich, said the goal is to make it easier for people with disabilities to access facilities.

“We’re removing the intermediary. It’s taking a barrier away for people who have enough barriers already,” Caravaca said.

The pass allows for free admission for one support person to all local, municipally funded recreation centres. It also offers free or reduced admission for one support person to 25 other venues in Greater Victoria, including the Royal B.C. Museum, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and Butchart Gardens. The cost for the support person’s entry is decided individually by each venue.

Passes, valid for three years, are issued to the person with a disability and can be used by different support workers.

A vetted professional, such as a nurse or a health authority, must confirm an applicant has a documented disability in order for them to qualify for the pass.

Caravaca said the change is part of the district’s efforts to meet the needs of its residents.

“We'll start with the new Leisure Assistant Pass this fall, then work toward inclusive programming for other areas in need of support. Our vision is a barrier-free community for all,” Caravaca said.

The district plans to hire a part-time staff member to develop programming for at-risk youth, new Canadians and the area’s growing population of older adults.

“We’re looking at how we serve the underserved in general,” Caravaca said.

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