Pair Receive BMAAC Awards

Posted May 26, 2010

NICK GARDINER The Recorder and TimesBrockville Public Library head librarian Margaret Williams, left, and Brockville Concert Band conductor Lance Besharah, right, show the plaques they received at a city council meeting on Tuesday from Brockville Municipal Advisory Committee (BMAAC) member Janet Jones, centre. Williams and Besharah were honoured for their roles in raising accessibility standards at the library and Brockville Arts Centre respectively.

Two elevators installed at the Brockville Arts Centre have provided a lift for the Brockville Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (BMAAC).

The elevators, which provide access to the stage and orchestra pit, were the brainchild of Brockville Concert Band conductor Lance Besharah, who was one of two city residents recognized by the committee on Tuesday.

Committee member Janet Jones presented certificates of recognition to Besharah and Margaret Williams, chief librarian at the Brockville Public Library.

“Periodically, we hand out awards to people who have done something significant for accessibility,” Jones told the council meeting.

Jones said Besharah did an amazing job at the arts centre, where there was some question about the need for a lift to the pit.

Getting a two-for-one deal helped convince the skeptics, Besharah told The Recorder and Times following the meeting.

He said the original project to install a lift to the stage was budgeted at $40,000. When he found out from an Arizona supplier he could get both elevators
for that amount, the deal was sealed, he said.

As a bonus, the lift for the orchestra pit allows him a better look at the concert band when he is conducting, said Besharah, who waved the baton from the
elevator during the recent production of Bye Bye Birdie.

“I was able to get up there because I’m not exactly tall,” he said.

Moreover, the lift has also been used at least twice by disabled musicians, he said.

The elevator leading to the stage is an even bigger plus, said Besharah, who used to help wheelchair-bound musicians up a treacherous set of stairs outside.

Besharah has been working for years trying to get an elevator installed, but found little interest until the recent Project Encore renovation.

“People seem to think people with disabilities don’t play instruments,” said Besharah.

He said the installation was made possible by the work of a committee, sponsors and contractors who provided volunteer labour.

“Everybody bought into it.”

Meanwhile, ongoing efforts to improve accessibility at the public library make it worthy of recognition, said Janet Jones.

“They were taking sensitivity training before people even knew what that was,” said Jones.

Chief librarian Margaret Williams said accessibility has been a priority for the library for years, out of consideration for customers and staff.

“People want to be independent as much as possible,” said Williams during an interview.

She said the elevator and ramps are obvious elements of being accessible, but the library serves many other needs as well.

That includes devices to help the poor of sight and hard of hearing, said Williams.

A Zoomtext feature, for instance, enlarges print and provides different coloured backgrounds to suit different preferences.

The feature is currently available on two computer monitors and an online book catalogue, but will be more widely offered as soon as possible, said Williams.

“We’re planning to increase the number of stations that have these features.”

Moreover, accessibility standards are always evolving, said Williams.

The elevator, for instance, can no longer accommodate some of the larger motorized scooters, she noted.

“Things have changed so fast,” she said.

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