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Building accessibility with City of Surrey

A series of icons designed by Canucks Autism Network and City of Surrey to make public events more accessible and navigable for individuals with autism and other diganoses.

Jul 5, 2018

At Canucks Autism Network, our vision is for every individual with autism to be understood, accepted and supported in all community spaces. To achieve this vision across the province, far beyond the walls of our programs and events, CAN seeks to collaborate with like-minded organizations who also support this goal.

For years, the City of Surrey has been a key partner for us to impact the lives of individuals and families with autism. In addition to hosting countless CAN programs, the city has been host to some very special highlights in our 10-year history.

In April 2016, the CAN Provincial Adapted Hockey Tournament was hosted at Surrey Sport and Leisure Complex, and was recognized by the City of Surrey with the Best Provincial Event. This unique tournament brought athletes with autism and other developmental disabilities from across the province together to compete and showcase their skills.

CAN was also proud to partner with City of Surrey in 2017 to host an Open House at Surrey Fire Hall #17, inviting families living with autism to come and interact with firefighters to decrease fear and increase awareness. This was a pivotal first for many families in making emergency services more friendly and accessible, and for increasing autism awareness among first responders.

As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, the City of Surrey has joined us in hosting the CAN Birthday Festival, a free and public celebration on today at Surrey Civic Plaza.

A graphic promoting the CAN Birthday Festival on Saturday, July 7 at Surrey Civic Plaza

At this event, the City of Surrey has unveiled a number of community accessibility initiatives, created and supported by CAN. These resources have been introduced at the CAN Birthday Festival with the goal of extending them to improve autism awareness and accessibility in a wide range of City of Surrey buildings, programs and events in the future.

It is important to note that many of these features will benefit not only individuals with autism, but a wide range of community members who may need support to access community spaces. These initiatives are outlined below:

1. City of Surrey Staff Training
All City of Surrey staff attending the CAN Birthday Festival have receive our autism training. This training has included information about autism and introduce strategies to support successful interaction in community spaces. This information will allow these City of Surrey staff to better provide services to individuals and families with autism not only at the CAN Birthday Festival, but in a range of community settings and activities for years to come.

2. Video Storybook for City of Surrey Events
In 2017, CAN partnered with the City of Surrey to create a publicly-available step-by-step video model for accessing a fitness centre. This year, CAN is proud to partner with City of Surrey to produce a video that will support access to community events.

This video will provide a step-by-step visual of what to expect and provide strategies for individuals with autism to successfully navigate public community events. This resource will be filmed at the CAN Birthday Festival and is expected to launch later this year.

3. Event Accessibility Toolkit
Similar to the Accessibility Toolkits developed in collaboration with YVR, Kelowna International Airport and Rogers Arena, the City of Surrey will also offer tools for individuals and families with autism to better access their public events. These tools will include event maps with icons for key areas and activities (ie. sensory-friendly space, washrooms, food, entertainment, shopping, etc), event signage that matches the icons on the map, and an event schedule/checklist.

An event checklist/schedule and map side by side.

The CAN Birthday Festival schedule checklist and map that will be handed out to event guests. Tools such as these are one of the many accessibility elements that City of Surrey will aim to implement for future public events. (Click for larger view)

4. Sensory Friendly Spaces
These designated spaces at public events will provide a haven for individuals with autism and other sensory sensitivities to relax. These quiet spaces will feature seating and activities for individuals of any age or diagnosis who may be feeling overwhelmed to have a designated space to decompress.

Sensory Friendly Spaces can be identified city-wide by the logo that was unveiled at the CAN Birthday Festival.

Two men stand on stage. One holds a large sign of a logo, while the other speaks with a mic.

CAN Manager of Strategic Sponsorships Ryan Yao and City of Surrey Councillor Dave Woods unveil the Sensory Friendly Space logo at CAN Birthday Festival on July 7, 2018.

5. Autism Accessibility Guidelines
In order to consistently deliver these initiatives, CAN and the City of Surrey have developed a set of guidelines to ensure that all events, programs and buildings are providing an accessible experience to individuals and families with autism.

With over 16,000 children and youth with autism in BC, we are so thankful for organizations like the City of Surrey, who have recognized a clear need for increased accessibility and support.

As we continued working towards our vision, we look forward to collaborating with more like-minded organizations to improve autism accessibility in all community spaces.

If you would like more information about partnering with Canucks Autism Network to improve autism accessibility in your business, organization or community space, please contact our Manager of Strategic Partnerships [email protected].

If you would like more information about City of Surrey’s accessibility initiatives, please contact Tara Roberts at [email protected] or 604-598-5763.