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Accessibility features at Port Moody hatchery a first in Canada

The hatchery has achieved gold certification from the Rick Hansen Foundation for its accessibility features

A Port Moody fish hatchery’s accessibility efforts could become a template for other such facilities in Metro Vancouver and across Canada.

The Mossom Creek hatchery and education centre has achieved a “gold” rating under the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program, scoring 84 out of 100 points for removing barriers and supporting the inclusion of people of all ages and abilities.

It’s the first hatchery in Canada to get gold certification, and the first site in Port Moody.

Pat Dennett, a long-time volunteer at the hatchery who managed its reconstruction after a devastating fire in 2013, said the project came from a desire to be able to share the bucolic environs of Mossom Creek with everyone.

But an audit by a representative from the Rick Hansen Foundation showed accessibility is much more than providing a ramp alternative to stairs or setting aside a special parking spot.

During a tour, the auditor identified several areas that would make hatchery more welcoming to visitors with mobility challenges as well hearing and visual impairments.

The assessment was pretty jolting, Dennett said.

“I thought we did a pretty good job,” he said of the rebuild that included a gently sloped ramp from the parking area to the education centre.

“But when I saw the long list of things, it really opened my eyes.”

Among the considerations identified were:

  • automatic door openers
  • better wheelchair access to the viewing pond
  • improvements to washroom facilities including the installation of strobe lights linked to the fire alarm and wrapping pipes under the sink with insulation so a visitor in a wheelchair won’t scald their knees
  • installation of an audio system that can transmit directly into hearing aids
  • providing a microwave that can easily be reached by someone in a wheelchair
  • brighter and larger signs for visitors with visual impairments

Dennett, who’s in the construction business, reached out to his industry contacts and hatchery supporters to raise $38,000 to fund the cited improvements — $22,000 in cash and $16,000 in material and labour donations.

Construction of the modifications started in April 2022, and the facility was ready for its final evaluation in December.

Dennett said the process challenged him to look at the hatchery, and the world, in a new way, through the eyes of someone who can’t take getting around or listening to an audio-video presentation for granted.

“It is a learning curve. It opens up your eyes to the broader experiences. It’s a knowledge you gain about the whole world of inclusiveness.”

Dennett said, while he’s proud of the recognition the hatchery has received from the Rick Hansen Foundation, its journey to full accessibility isn’t over.

On the horizon is making the creekside viewing area more navigable and other little touches here and there.

More importantly, though, Dennett hopes Mossom’s experience will be the catalyst for other facilities to follow its lead.

Already he’s consulted with a hatchery in South Surrey on accessibility improvements it can make.

“Hopefully it will be inspirational to others,” Dennett said.

“If you’re building a hatchery you want to do it right to be a part of something that makes the world a better place.”

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