Wednesday, June 28, 2017

How to get a ramp installed on an inaccessible venue

So anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I am a major league jazz fan. So when the complete schedule for the Toronto Jazz Festival was announced, I went to their website looking for shows to attend. Last year was the first time in several years that I didn't go to any shows. They have a bad habit of booking artists I have already seen or some that aren't even jazz. They did some of that this year too. And they also have free concerts usually featuring local acts that don't interest me. The other thing they did this year is localize all the shows in the Yorkville area. I'm looking over the schedule and I see that they are bringing over the European jazz trio Phronesis for a free concert. Though probably unknown to casual jazz fans, I'm a hard core fan and I know all about them. And free is the perfect price for me. The venue is Heliconian Hall on Hazelton Ave. near Yorkville. Not only had I never been to this place, I've never heard of it. So my first question is can I get in there? Is it accessible? The building started out as a church in 1876. And for years it's been a women's art club. It was named a National Historic Site in 2008. I doubted that it is accessible but one never knows. It didn't say anything on the website. So I tweeted the Toronto Jazz Festival and asked about accessibility. They had someone from Heliconian Hall call me. The building was just renovated but they plan to make it accessible next year. Making heritage buildings accessible can be tricky because it has to be retro fitted. The building can't be altered. Of course next year doesn't help me now. That's what I told Toronto Jazz Festival. Festival CEO Howard Kerbel called me and apologized. I told him that accessibility as an afterthought is systemic in Toronto despite laws like the AODA that are supposed to change that. I told him they shouldn't have rented that building in the first place. And if he didn't do something about it, I could get appropriate media coverage. I've done that in the past. Ask Elections Ontario. He agreed to build a ramp. I have posted two pictures that I took with my phone. The first is what the front of the building looks like. The ramp was in the back because there is no space in the front. The only thing I was concerned about was the ramp wouldn't be adequate. But as you can see by the second picture, it was fine. The Toronto Jazz Festival has volunteers everywhere. One of them took me to the ramp. Phronesis was hanging out there so I got to meet them before the show and talk to them and take a pic afterwards. Everything went fine and I am returning to Heliconian Hall on Saturday to see The Claudia Quintet. Thanks to Howard for getting this done. I appreciate it. But it comes with a moral. Major events in Toronto had better have accessibility in the forefront. As long as it is an afterthought, it can cost you later on.

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