Julie Sawchuk's Column: Destination: Accessible Blyth!
What better way to celebrate the new year than with dance and new babies? So that is what I will share with you this month: how easy it is to create an accessible location even when it involves dancing and deliveries (but maybe not at the same time).
First, to an established location with a new look: East Side Dance Studio. If you have been by the studio you will have noticed some recent renovations. With the help of CMB construction the studio is now equipped with a ramp and a set of stairs so that everyone can get in! The idea grew from a conversation I had with Les and Anne about me learning to dance (again) using my wheelchair.
They both thought it was a great idea so they planned a renovation to the entrance of the studio, not just for me, but for anyone who found stairs difficult. You might think that if you can dance you can climb steps, but that is not always the case. Some of the people who use the studio have had accidents or surgeries that cause them to need assistance. Besides that, some people do come just to watch!
What I’d like to point out is how lovely the entrance ties into the rest of the studio (and the house). It looks like it belongs. Ramps don’t have to be ugly and stand out – they can be an architectural feature. Les and Anne’s ramp is just an extension of the front porch.
Now you are wondering “how do babies fit into this?” Heading east from Blyth you will have seen the facelift given to the old Church of God building. That is the new home of Huron Midwives, now owned and operated by Midwife Ellen Peel. Midwifery services are offered free of charge (paid for by OHIP) providing care for women through normal pregnancy and birth. They also will help with care and advice of newborns by visiting new mothers at home.
The renovations at the old church go much further than a facelift – the entire interior of the building has been updated with serious consideration given to accessibility. Ellen knew about the resources I have on my website and used them to help create the main floor to be completely accessible. Yes, women who use wheelchairs do have babies, and sometimes it is their partner or a family member who has a need for accessibility. The newly renovated space has a large waiting area with a kitchenette, a birthing room with a tub, two examination rooms, a staff room, office and a completely accessible washroom.
To make it easier for the contractors, Ellen printed the accessible bathroom resource that shows proper heights and distances of the grab bars. When renovating (or building new) it’s important to make sure that the wall studs are in the right location to attach the grab bars. The clinic is also fitted with a ramp, automatic doors and wide doorways. So although some serious investment went into the renovations, it did not cost much more to make it accessible. Wide doors, smooth floors, roll-under sink, grab bars, push-button entrance; all of these features are helpful, and not just to wheelchair users.
So, here we have two more locations in Blyth that are accessible for all. Let’s keep this up! As the vision of Blyth as a destination location continues to take shape, keep accessibility at the front of your mind. Storefronts, bathrooms, parking, pathways and outdoor spaces – a little bit of thought goes a long way to making a space inclusive and welcoming. One day it may be you who will enjoy the accesses for all.
For free accessibility resources, to ask me a question or if you are interested in having me speak to your school, business or community group please visit my website at www.juliesawchuk.ca.