Surrey Councillor Dave Woods (right) and Ryan Yao, manager of strategic sponsorships with Canucks Autism Network, unveil the logo for the city’s “Sensory Friendly Spaces” signs at the CAN Birthday Festival, held July 7 at Surrey Civic Plaza. (Photo: submitted/CAN)

‘Sensory Friendly Spaces’ in Surrey to help individuals and families with autism

New signs are among several City of Surrey initiatives noted at recent Canucks Autism Network event

The City of Surrey is rolling out a number of initiatives designed to make life easier for individuals and families with autism.

The resources, created and supported by Canucks Autism Network, were unveiled at the organization’s recent Birthday Festival, held July 7 at Surrey Civic Plaza in celebration of CAN’s 10th anniversary.

Among them is “Sensory Friendly Spaces” — designated spaces at public events that aim to 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.”

• RELATED STORY: Special invites sent for big Canucks Autism Network birthday party in Surrey

A logo for the signs was unveiled at CAN’s festival with the help of Surrey Councillor Dave Woods.

“In 2012, the City of Surrey established a partnership with Canucks Autism Network,” Woods said. “Since that time, the city has been taking vital steps to become more accessible.”

The city is currently exploring community facilities and locations that would best accommodate Sensory Friendly Spaces, according to a statement sent to CAN and forwarded to the Now-Leader.

“The City has made a commitment to introduce autism accessibility initiatives at all major City of Surrey events as of September 2018,” the statement says. “Event-specific accessibility measures may include resources such as site maps (for ease of navigation), sound-cancelling headphones (available for loan), event checklists (to increase predictability), and social storybooks (to help individuals with autism know what to expect in advance).

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“In addition, the City of Surrey is working with Canucks Autism Network to launch a step-by-step video resource that will provide strategies for individuals with autism to successfully navigate public community events. The video resource is expected to launch later this year.”

The City of Surrey initiatives are detailed on the CAN website (canucksautism.ca), on a page titled “Building accessibility with City of Surrey.”

Staff training, a step-by-step video about accessing a fitness centre, an Event Accessibility Toolkit and Autism Accessibility Guidelines are some of the other initiatives in Surrey.

They were 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,” according to the website post.

“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.”

Past CAN events in Surrey include a Provincial Adapted Hockey Tournament in April 2016 at Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex, and an open house at Surrey Fire Hall #17 in 2017.

Also at the CAN festival in Surrey, Ben Wilson of Surrey Firefighters Charitable Society challenged every festival attendee to post a “happy birthday” video to Canucks Autism Network using the hashtag #CANBdayFest.

“With every video birthday wish posted, the Surrey Firefighters Charitable Society will donate one dollar, up to $10,000, to support Canucks Autism Network,” Wilson said at the free event, which included live music, food trucks, vendors, games and other attractions.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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