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Sidney eyes accessibility in plans for public washroom

Revised plans could see addition of a washroom for people with more complex disabilities
Sidney is currently working on a plans for public washroom along its waterfront walkway. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Plans for public washrooms in downtown Sidney will undergo a review with an eye toward making them more accessible for people with more complex and physical disabilities.

Council instructed staff to review the possibility of including what experts call a changing place washroom, which will accommodate the needs of people with disabilities, into plans for new public washrooms.

The municipality plans to open two new public washroom spaces in downtown Sidney in 2022. One would replace the current accessible washroom trailer on Fourth Street. The second washroom would be a new facility along the waterfront walkway near Beacon Park, which would include the changing place washroom.

“This bathroom would be something that would allow people with disabilities to travel and participate in a lot of the events that are happening in Sidney,” said Charlene Froom, a North Saanich resident and self-described advocate for people with disabilities. “It would open up the world to a lot of people with disabilities.”

The airport authority recently installed such a washroom at Victoria International Airport, one of three Canadian airports to have done so.

Coun. Terri O’Keeffe spearheaded the push, noting that the municipality is currently designing the new public washrooms.

“We have a window of opportunity,” she said, adding upgrading any future washrooms to the standards of a changing place washroom would be more difficult and costly.

RELATED: North Saanich accessibility activist calls for ongoing improvements on Peninsula

O’Keeffe acknowledged that changing the design would lead to additional, yet-to-be-finalized costs and possible delays in the project’s timeline.

Council’s approved resolution will see staff report back to council on potential impacts on budgets and timelines. Design work on the washroom facility would continue until drawings are complete, but the municipality would not issue a tender for construction until council has received staff’s report.

Council has allocated a budget of $100,000 for the replacement of the public washroom trailer on Fourth Street and $300,000 for the new washroom facility proposed for the waterfront.

O’Keeffe’s proposal received unanimous support from her council colleagues. Chief administrative officer Randy Humble said staff is “very supportive of this concept” but also pointed to a potential problem.

“The one thing we are grappling with is what is indeed the best location for this type of accessible washroom,” he said. The municipality’s new washroom facility in Iroquois Park has seen significant vandalism. “We are looking at some very expensive equipment that would go into this type of facility,” he said.

O’Keeffe’s proposal calls for a location near Sidney’s waterfront because it would be accessible from its walkway. “While the public walkway component is busy, you don’t have a lot of surrounding eyes on it all the time,” said Humble. “In looking at this type of facility, is it better located within a proposed new building as an example versus a stand-alone washroom facility?”

Staff is currently in lease negotiations with Marker Group for the washroom near the waterfront walkway.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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