The Salt Spring and Southern Gulf Islands Community Services Society (SSICS) McPhillips Building, a building erected in the 1920’s and housed in the district of Ganges Village on Salt Spring Island, operates a program for adults with disabilities. However, there was a gap in access for many of the visitors: there was no interior access to the second floor, and individuals were unable to access the third floor without climbing two flights of stairs.
SSICS had the McPhillips Building rated using Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™ (RHFAC) in early 2019. After that, SSICS applied for funding through the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) BC Accessibility Grants program for the opportunity to upgrade accessibility in their space.
This funding provided the opportunity for SSICS to make a number of access improvements. First, they rebuilt the washrooms on the main floor, and refurbished those on the second and third floors, to improve accessibility. For example, in the second-floor washroom, a closet was removed to increase floor space to ensure an appropriate turning radius for mobility aids such as wheelchairs. An addition was also built to house an elevator to allow for access to the higher floors without needing to ascend staircases.
“It was about reimagining the space available to us,” Rob Wiltzen, Operations/Communication Manager of Salt Spring Community Services, said. The building is a century old, so working within the confines of the structure was tricky, but was a challenge SSICS wanted to tackle.
It was important to SSICS to make these accessibility upgrades because they run over 40 programs, many of which operate out of the building. For example, in their 'Friends' Day Program, which serves adults with a variety of cognitive and physical disabilities to help them develop and implement person centered plans to promote health, socialization and community involvement, there are five adults with physical disabilities who use the space.
“It’s a big win for the entire community,” Wiltzen said, as many members of the community now benefit from this additional access.
For SSICS, one of the most rewarding parts of the improvements included ensuring access to the third-floor space for all individuals regardless of physical abilities. According to Wiltzen, the room is a large, beautiful open space used for recreational activities. Now, everyone in the day program can use the third-floor space and participate in the group sessions which are held there.
"As the program coordinator for the 'Friends' Day Program for disabled adults, as well as the coordinator for an art therapy program, the ability to provide full access to the wonderful facilities of the entire building to our program participants makes an enormous difference in their days. The washroom improvements have been a major upgrade for both our clients and for our staff," Donna Roscoe SSICS, the 'Friends' Program Coordinator at SSICS, said of the improvements.
Wiltzen also hopes to have the building re-rated to see how far they’ve come and what they can do next to continue to improve accessibility.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support for this Program from the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction.