Richmond’s newest aquatic, seniors and events centre has won an international award for its accessibility features despite initial delays in opening, partially due to structural issues.
The Minoru Centre for Active Living received the Distinction for Accessibility award from the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee and the International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities.
Pam Andrews, a retired OT who uses an electric scooter and an assistance dog, recently visited the new pool facility to see if it was a facility she could use for swimming.
She was originally worried about where she would keep her dog while she was in the pool, but a tour of the facility given by a lifeguard assured her she could bring her “working dog” along.
Andrews, who sits on the city’s design advisory panel bringing the voice of people with disabilities to that table, said the principle of universal access – for “all ages and all stages” of life - should be at the centre of all new design, for example, someone pushing a stroller, a person in a wheelchair or someone who uses a walker.
Rather than making sure there are points of accessibility – like a separate accessible door – new facilities should have these features built into all parts of design.
“Focusing on universal design, focusing on one fit for everybody, no matter what their age, no matter what their needs, no matter what their abilities,” Andrews said as way of advice for designers.
And as the population ages, more and more people are going to need features that are designed for disabilities, Andrew said, as most people will develop some sort of physical limitation as they get older.
“All of us are going to have some functional limitation – some greater, some smaller,” Andrews said, adding “We’re a lucky person if we’re jogging at 90.”
Some of the accessibility features at the Minoru Centre for Active Living include barrier-free front doors, accessible reception centres, ramps and “gentle steps” as well as mobile lifts into the pool.
The change rooms also have wide entrances, large showers and large changing stalls.
The International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, and International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities presented the award in Cologne, Germany.
There were 86 contenders for the various categories of this year’s international architecture prize coming from countries such as Japan, Montenegro, Peru, Syria, Canada, Australia and the United States.
Winners include the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England; Helsinki Olympic Stadium in Finland and the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo, Japan.
The Minoru Centre for Active Living opened two years later than expected and had cracks and leaking in at least one lap pool that needed to be fixed. The city is being sued for $7 million lawsuit by the construction company, Stuart Olson.