Birth Centre wins accessibility award

Facility accessible for variety of abilities

Joan Dawkins, Andrew Konawalchuk and Chris Daly accepted the design award from the City of Winnipeg's Access Advisory Committee.

Winnipeg Health Region
Published Monday, October 22, 2012

Winnipeg’s Birth Centre has received a design award for accessibility from the City of Winnipeg’s Access Advisory Committee.

The $3.5 million centre, located at 603 St. Mary’s Rd., received one of six awards presented by Mayor Sam Katz during a special ceremony on Oct. 16 at City Hall.

Opened last year, the centre is managed by the Women’s Health Clinic. It provides a range of services, including prenatal, pregnancy and postpartum care, counselling and education programs that support a woman from early pregnancy through to being a parent. Midwifery services such as primary prenatal, interpartum and postpartum care, and non-midwifery services are available to women and their families.

This is the eleventh year the civic committee has recognized individuals, organizations and businesses for their achievements in universal design and enhancing accessibility for users.

“We’re pleased to celebrate private and public projects where universal design has moved from an afterthought to a standard part of the planning process,” said Katz. “Individuals and organizations are ensuring that this is a city of opportunity for people of all abilities.”

Joan Dawkins, Director of the Women’s Health Clinic, Andrew Konowalchuk, Director of Capital Planning for the Region, and Chris Daly, Principal, MMP Architects, accepted the award.

Dawkins spoke on behalf of the project and acknowledged the partnership between the province, the Winnipeg Health Region, Women’s Health Clinic and MMP Architects.

“The original vision developed by a group of community women working with Women’s Health Clinic was for a welcoming and inclusive place; not just from a physical point of view but for women from diverse cultures, backgrounds and experiences,” she said.

The result is a welcoming and beautiful, state-of-the-art, accessible, inclusive and comfortable environment for any woman, regardless of her background, age or abilities.

These are precisely the elements that captured the Committee’s interest: addressing the physical needs of clients, visitors and staff while creating a relaxing, home-style environment and an atmosphere of inclusion.

Professor Marcus Ormerod, a universal design expert from Manchester, England, had the chance to tour the facilities which received awards. “I’ve travelled the world to see what inclusion looks like and the City of Winnipeg is up there with the best. These projects are very inclusive developments,” he said.

While this award is an honour, accessibility in regional facilities is a standard that’s been recognized in four other projects, says Konowalchuk. “We pride ourselves in our office on our commitment to universal design, staff and public engagement and many other factors that lead to a successful project. We work with the architects and designers, with each project having a unique set of functional requirements, and use our own in-house experience in this area to assist the design community with specialized universal design features for our projects.”

Universal design at the Birth Centre

The Birth Centre’s universal design includes the needs of all users, from a parent navigating a stroller, a person temporarily using crutches after an accident, or people who are moving slower because of illness or age.

The birth rooms offer features such as:

  • large tubs with access on three sides
  • adjustable beds that are lower and wider than hospital beds, allowing for access by a partner or support person

Features that enhance independent movement through the facility include:

  • a one-way drop-off lane for visitors for stress-free loading and unloading of small families, people with mobility issues and geriatric clients or Handi-transit
  • accessible public and staff parking stalls close to the entry
  • a power door operator at every entry
  • signs greeting people upon entry
  • a main entry that immediately flows to a central reception desk, something that exceeds National Building Code requirements
  • sinks and vanities at accessible heights
  • universally accessible meeting and interview rooms
  • oversized doors, again exceeding National Building Code requirements
  • low-glare floors in all public circulation paths, which improve mobility and safety
  • hand rails in public areas set against a contrasting visible surface for improved visibility
  • all birthing rooms are universally accessible
  • one birthing room is oversized
  • power exam bed in one clinic room, which can be raised or lowers to allow people to move on their own or with minimal help

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