Dylan Polfliet firmly believes that everyone should have an equal opportunity to enjoy recreation facilities and parks. That’s why the 24-year-old master of human kinetics student surveyed the Town of LaSalle’s most popular parks to assess their overall accessibility.
“It all comes down to equality and recreation has a ton of holistic benefits,” Polfliet said. “The benefits can be emotional, social and physical. Removing those barriers will allow everybody to participate.”
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was passed in 2005 with aspirations that all facilities and public spaces will be 100 per cent accessible by the year 2025.
Polfliet used the town’s parks master plan to identify which of the 33 parks were most heavily used and narrowed his research to 15 parks and the Vollmer Complex.
His first challenge was to create a checklist in order to measure the accessibility.
Polfliet adapted framework set out by the American measurement tool in the Accessibility Instruments Measuring Fitness and Recreation Environments manual and applied standards from the Ontario Building Code and the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulations.
“Using that, I was able to conduct measurements to be able to tell what the overall accessibility for facilities was by subscale and then also the park overall,” Polfliet said.
“I was able to add a little cross-departmental touch as well by getting two upper-year engineering students to help me take the measurements.”
Armed with measuring tapes, Polfliet said the three examined blueprints and the town’s geographic information system before manually measuring the facility and parks. His subscales examined the accessibility of parking, the entrance and exit, exterior and interior paths of travel, washrooms, exterior amenities and drinking fountains.
Polfliet said the issue of accessibility is one that hits particularly close to home: he has a close family member who is expected to face limitations to recreation as she grows up.
“I look at my research as a way of removing barriers for her and everybody else in her position,” he said, adding that he plans to present his research to the town in the upcoming weeks.
Hailing from Norwich, Ontario, Polfliet said he hopes to eventually work in municipal recreation and planning. He has already completed a placement with the Town of LaSalle working as a culture and recreation intern.