City Slow to Accommodate the Disabled

PostedSeptember 27, 2010

Re: “Grand Theatre is still in a fix,” Sept. 23 (see below).

I just read the Whig-Standard’s latest report about how the Grand Theatre will need a third renovation to make the stage accessible. I can’t believe it. Requests to make the stage accessible have been made ever since feedback was first solicited from the disability community prior to the city doing the
first renovation.

When it was completed, and it was announced that a second renovation would be needed to fix the washroom and the lift, I wrote a letter to the city to again ask for stage access. I also asked why the city did not use widely accepted measurements that were written by engineers in London, Ont., and have since been adopted in Kingston.

This led to correspondence being exchanged with city commissioner Cynthia Beach, councillor Mark Gerretsen and the Accessibility Committee. Commissioner

Beach even met with me to discuss some ideas. During our meeting I stressed the importance of making the stage accessible so it would comply with the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act) — an act to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025. I also shared some links for portable lifting devices that could be used, not only at the Grand Theatre, but maybe even at some other city-owned properties as well.

I thought for sure that this time full access would be achieved. It is obvious it has not. This begs the question: where is the accountability?

I’m not sure the reasoning behind why the city has chosen to do things in small, rather expensive steps, but it is clearly evident that the public are getting frustrated at the excessive costs to accommodate the disabled. We, too, are getting frustrated by the lays to achieve full accessibility because, believe it or not, there are some areas where we are actually losing ground to achieving full accessibility.

Please, council, I ask that solid leadership be given to stop these mistakes from happening.

Louise Bark Kingston

Article ID# 2774167

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Grand Theatre is Still in a Fix

By PAUL SCHLIESMANN, THE WHIG-STANDARD
PostedSeptember 23, 2010

With the mortar barely dry on accessibility upgrades to the front of the Grand Theatre, councillors were asked Tuesday night to approve another $100,000 in work to the backstage area.

The request came from the Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee, which has identified problems for disabled people getting onstage, as well as using the washroom in that area of the building.

The Grand reopened in May 2008 after three years of renovations costing $17 million. It closed this spring to perform $650,000 worth of work to upgrade
washrooms, create a larger elevator and wheelchair lift, lower sinks and box office counters and cement into place the floor stones in the front foyer.

“The work that’s just being completed, there was a priority list of things we dealt with first,” said accessibility committee chairman Glenn Outhwaite.

“This project didn’t cover backstage.”

The committee request to council described the backstage area as “the one significant area that was not included in the scope of the current renovation
project.”

Instead of agreeing to allocate the $100,000, councillors instead passed a motion stating that the $100,000 be “considered” in the 2011-12 capital budget.

The matter will be dealt with by the next council after the Oct. 25 election.

Sustainability and growth commissioner Cynthia Beach told councillors on Tuesday night that the $100,000 figure was “probably extremely low.”

Outhwaite said the fact that so much retrofit work is taking place doesn’t mean the original renovations at the Grand were inadequate. Provincial standards for accessibility, he said, have greatly improved in the interim.

“I can’t speak to the designs because I wasn’t involved at the time,” said Outhwaite. “I think we’ve come a long way in terms of understanding the issues
around accessibility. The city is moving toward meeting that goal. That’s just happened the past two years.”

The accessibility committee has set up teams to advise city staff on various issues and projects involving municipal properties.

“It’s hard to say where I would rank this one,” said Outhwaite of importance of the backstage proposal. “They’re all important. Anything to do with accessibility is important.”

Article ID# 2769412

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