In May 2014, Recreation Integration Victoria (RIV) hosted a Community Forum to solicit input regarding people with disabilities’ experience when trying to access active living opportunities in the Greater Victoria area, on Peninsula, and in the West Shore. The Forum participants included people with disabilities, family members and caregivers, and recreation professionals. One of the major themes that came out of the day was the need for access to information about what experience a person with a disability would have when they arrive at a particular facility.
What bus routes go there? Is there parking for people with disabilities? How physically accessible is it (i.e. automatic door openers, pool lifts etc.)? Is there specialized or adapted equipment available for the activity I want to participate in? These are just some of the questions people have before heading out into the community.
People suggested, if there was an app or website they could visit that described the access amenities, with photos or video of different features, it would make a significant difference in whether they ventured out from home or not. Many described the experience of going somewhere only to be frustrated by access issues whether it was to the facility itself, or particular areas of the facility.
After two years, RIV is working in collaboration with Dr. Nigel Livingston, School of Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria, to develop the website and app suggested. We have applied for matching funding through Mitacs Accelerate which will enable us to hire students and consultants to complete this work.
Developing or adapting an existing facility access assessment tool, and a database, are the starting point. Data collection using the assessment tool and populating the database is Phase 2. Phase 3 will be the actual design of the website and app and populating it with the collected data. Each aspect of the app and website will be beta tested, by a focus group of people with a variety of disabilities, to identify specific design issues that need to be addressed.
This project has the potential to add many components over time. We hope to have: links to all facilities and recreation service providers; links to all local sport organizations for people with disabilities; photos and videos that illustrate access features and equipment; activity specific information such as pool temperatures; bus routes to facilities; and information on the benefits of active living, healthy eating, hydration, and the importance of sleep.
Initially, we will be collecting data on one major facility in each community in our region. As time and resources are available, we hope to expand this to include the more than 50 public facilities in our region. We have developed an online survey to help us in gathering information regarding what content you would like to see available through the app, and what challenges you face when trying to pursue your leisure interests in the community. If you know of a particular exemplar of access and inclusion locally, we would also like to know about it.
The collection of data, and the development of the website and app will not happen overnight, but we are committed to making it happen. Once developed, we hope that the tools and technology could be used in other regions, making access information more available to people with disabilities there.
This technology has the potential to assist individuals in being able to get with the flow of activity in our region. More to come in future issues.