1948 – 2017
Accessibility for all - Wheelchair Ramp Installed
Submitted on Wed, 05/19/2010 - 12:00am
Ethnic halls on the way to being barrier-free
As the province ramps up its accessibility standards, Delhi's ethnic halls are readying themselves with wheelchair ramps and chairlifts to ensure patron independence.
Recently, the Delhi Belgian Club has installed a wooden ramp on the west side of its facility. The project has been a longtime in the works, but it came to the forefront with the provincial government placing a heightened focus on accessibility, says Nancy Pynaert, president of the club. In two years, it will be mandatory for businesses to "allow customers with disabilities to use their own personal assistive devices to access your good and use your services," according to the province's Accessibility Standards for Customer Service.
This ramp has especially been a longtime coming for Marcel Jacobs. The wheelchair-bound shareholder of the Delhi Belgian Club has been an advocate of a ramp.
"There is more and more young people in wheelchairs," added his wife Henriette.
She and her husband were among the first to donate when the fundraising project was unrolled. The Delhi Belgian Ladies' Auxiliary has also been significant fundraiser, donating proceeds from its annual fashion show to the cause.
The ramp will also ensure safety for staff and patrons who attempt to help patrons bound in wheelchairs into the facility.
"It's safer too than trying to carry someone in," Pynaert added.
The new ramp at the Belgian club is the latest addition to accessibility in the town's ethnic halls.
The Polish Alliance Friendly Society is already prepared for the province's push towards accessibility. It has had a ramp outside for years and an accessible washroom.
"It (ramp) was just put up because many of our members needed wheelchair accessibility," explained Helen Pasek, who is in charge of bookings for the Polish hall.
The Delhi District German Home also has ramps already built into its facility. The only outstanding issue is that an able-bodied patron needs to open the door from the inside.
However, its upstairs washrooms are already wheelchair accessible. Now the focus will be on turning the downstairs accessible, including an overhaul of the men's washroom and a solution for the basement flight of stairs.
"It is important that we're accessible," said Theresa Voigt, executive assistant with the German home.
That sentiment is echoed by Andy Putoczki, president of the Delhi District Hungarian Hall. The facility's chairlift — a fundraising project —that raises patrons up to the main floor is in hot demand.
"We're finding more and more people are using that chairlift," he said.
Their system also relies on two platforms that turn a flight of stairs into a temporarily flat surface. It is mostly used to allow wheelchair-bound patrons to roll from the sidewalk into the main lobby.
"We've even had it so that two platforms can go on the (lobby) stairs for people who cannot get out of their chair," he said.
The hall was originally considering an elevator, but it would have cost in the ballpark of $100,000. He noted these upgrades are often costly, especially when smaller weddings are often happening in local halls.
However, the Hungarian hall is working towards making its washrooms now accessible.
"That's something we're looking at," he added.
Currently, 1.85 million Ontarians — or one in every seven — have a disability, according to the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Over the next 20 years, that is expected to rise to one in five.