Mentors or support staff who accompany residents with special needs to recreational programs, buildings or sports fields will soon be able to access these places for free.
The parks and recreation department has created an Accessibility Support Policy designed to “increase inclusion and access to recreation programs and facilities for persons with a disability.” Admission policies exist within the YaraCentre, Kinsmen Sportsplex and Phyllis Dewar Outdoor Pool, but no formal policy exists that waives fees for support persons, a city council report explained.
The new policy now provides consistent practices among all recreation programs and will provide individuals and organizations with set guidelines for recreation access to support people with disabilities. About 60 support persons attend drop-in recreation programs each month, mostly with school-based programs and community groups such as Moose Jaw Families for Change.
The pandemic forced the parks and recreation department to change admission policies, reduce program capacity and ensure contact tracing for all programs, the report continued. The new policy is expected to support those changes and reduce participation barriers.
The new policy
The new Accessibility Support Policy includes the creation of an accessibility support recreation membership for support persons at no charge, guidelines on assessing individuals who require a support worker, a simple application form for the support person to acknowledge responsibilities, and flexibility in creating accounts for the number of support workers to meet the needs of people with disabilities.
People with disabilities will continue to pay regular fees while the support persons can attend at no charge.
The policy’s creation came in response to a request from the special needs committee during its October meeting to allow mentors and support staff to accompany individuals with disabilities to enter recreational centres for free.
The parks and recreation department presented the new policy during city council’s Dec. 7 regular meeting. Council voted unanimously to approve the document.
The next regular council meeting is Monday, Dec. 14.