The Saanich Commonwealth Place has several amenities that make recreation more accessible including a lift to help folks with limited mobility enter the various pools. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Saanich program making recreation more accessible

Leisure Assistant Passes will be available at Saanich recreation centres this fall

The District of Saanich has announced a new inclusion services program. The first initiative is to streamline the Leisure Assistant Pass application process which allows folks of all ages to bring a support person with them to assist them with leisure activities at little or no extra cost.

The pass is being offered at all recreation centres in Saanich as well as the Panorama Recreation Centre. In the past, folks who needed a Leisure Assistant Pass had to go to Recreation Integration Victoria (RIV) to apply and receive their card before heading to their recreation centre of choice, explained Cristina Caravaca, senior manager of community services in Saanich. She pointed out that people without any barriers are able to buy a pass directly from their recreation centre and now folks with varying abilities will be able to do so as well.

Saanich recreation centres will still accept valid RIV passes, and the new application forms were designed to look the same to make the whole process easy to navigate.

“Our vision is a barrier-free community for all,” said Caravaca.

The goal is to provide safe and accessible recreation opportunities for folks of all abilities, explained Kelli-Ann Armstrong, senior manager of recreation. Saanich recreation centres already have inclusive equipment and services including accessible weight rooms, overhead lifts and chair lifts for pool access, scooter charging stations, aquatic wheelchairs, adapted workout machines and accessible washrooms and change rooms. Information about what accessible features are available at each recreation centre is available on the Leisure Access Victoria App.

With the Leisure Assistant Pass, folks who require accompaniment can bring different support staff with them depending on the activity, Armstrong explained. It’s the person who is associated with the pass, not their support staff.

Saanich residents can apply for the pass at any recreation centre in the District and can use the pass at any recreation centre in the Greater Victoria region. Several other venues will also accept the pass including the Mount Douglas Golf course, Boulder Climbing Gym and the Royal B.C. Museum. Documentation regarding what type of assistance the applicant requires must be included in the application and once approved, the pass is valid for three years. This is to make it easy for folks to apply and use the pass without having to go through the application process annually, Armstrong explained.

The accessible recreation pass is just part of the Parks and Recreation Department’s inclusion services plan. Market analysis indicated to District staff that the community wanted more inclusive options, said Armstrong. The District is looking for ways to expand the inclusion services program to help older adults, at-risk youth, autistic folks, new Canadians and LGBTQIA+ folks. The program will also offer training for recreation centre staff.

“We’re just getting started,” said Armstrong.

To apply for the pass, drop by a Saanich recreation centre, email recreation@saanich.ca, or call (250) 475-5422. For more information and to view the application form, visit the Saanich website.

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