There is a long and colourful story that comes with the antique elevator in this building: Rumoured to be one of the oldest in operation in the city, and originally granting access to the bowling alley that once existed in the basement here, its own legend will live on through folklore and tall tale.
In regards to this update, we will do our best to offer you the short story, which will begin in the fall of 2016. From this time there is more info in regards to the organizing efforts that have been put towards wheelchair accessibility, not to dismiss any efforts made in the time before.
Many folks will recollect, our elevator in its previous form was used by many patrons over the years to access the VEC. When new board members joined in the fall of 2016, it came as a surprise that there was little or no policy by that of the VEC to manage access to the elevator, its use, and the overall guest experience, in a respectful or responsible way. This is the starting point from which we begin the journey towards making the venue more accessible to our guests with mobility restrictions. It also became very apparent that the space had very limited access, including access to the washrooms, stage, and other areas of the venue.
We began by reaching out to service providers and consultants to lend advice on our efforts. We received advice from the Rick Hansen Foundation, We Hate Stairs, and the CRUSH Collective.
We started where we could. After receiving suggestions from the groups above, we opted to put our initial volunteer efforts towards creating a wheelchair accessible stall in the green room. Without major renovations, this was our first achievable move, and was completed after a third shot attempt at it. We also made moves to create better access to the elevator itself, and to make it more welcoming of an entrance (which became an ongoing logistical struggle).
What we had come to realize, was that we would need major financial resources if we were going to do this properly. We began to research and prepare for grants.
During this time we also received more advice after the completion of a RAMP audit by folks associated with the CRUSH Collective. They volunteered to conduct an audit of the space which helped to add information regarding physical measurements of the space.
We were stoked to be making progress and were hopeful of two government grants which the deadline would be July 31st.; one through the federal government, and one through the provincial government.
At the same time, our organization had just become subject to a government audit, and it was discovered that we owed tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes — to both levels of government. Additionally, it was discovered that we had failed to report on a provincial grant from years before. This made us practically ineligible to receive either grant. We were deflated, and discouraged about this.
We continued talks with the Rick Hansen Foundation, and made ongoing steps in their grant application process. We booked in for an audit of our space, which was the first step in becoming eligible for one of their grants. We booked in the earliest possible time, and it was scheduled for December 2017.
Turns out, when you owe PST, the government can actually seize your bank account. Who would’ve thought? In the fall of 2017 we discovered this first-hand on one fateful morning; the day before payday for our staff. After pleading with a bounty hunter over the phone, they set us up with a payment plan. We’d be making 9 hefty monthly payments (well beyond our means) until debts were paid off.
Right around this time, our old antique elevator was having electrical issues; it was everything but reliable. Additionally, the elevator’s inspection decals had expired. We had a sad decision to make, but we made the appropriate choice: shutting down the elevator until we felt it was safe for use by staff, and for our guests. We weren’t comfortable operating the elevator under its current conditions, and let all of our renters know the news in the fall. We began the process of finding an elevator company that would not only make proper repairs, but bring it up to safe standards.
After as many free consultations as we could glean, we had a company come in and do the minimum work necessary to get the elevator moving up and down properly. This was needed, just so that we could book in a time with the provincial inspector, and work towards getting a safety decal on the elevator.
We had an inspector arrive and do the safety tests. Result: the elevator was condemned, never to be operational again (R.I.P.). Another huge setback for us, our guests, and especially for everyone that could no longer access the space. This wasn’t going to be a simple renovation, this was a full rebuild of an elevator. We were super deflated, and extra discouraged about this.
Hope was still alive amongst the small team that was working on this project. We decided that we needed to do more, and we were counting down the days of paying off our taxes that we owed, in the hopes that government grants would one day be available.
We began to seek out quotes for an entire new elevator, and started to ask around to the various elevator companies. We’ve received some conflicting advice, and quotes with a drastic range: everything from “really high” to “astronomical”.
What we initially figured would be about a $10,000 project in 2016, rose beyond our belief. It seemed that every new quote had a higher dollar amount. Every couple weeks the quotes would rise, and have gone as high as $500,000. We were more deflated than ever, and almost beyond discouraged at this point.
We’d been reaching out to all of our networks, setting up meetings with foundations, and looking at every viable option for us to achieve the goal of wheelchair access to the space.
We’ve started asking a few more questions, and pushing for more quotes from different elevator companies. New quotes have started coming in, and it seems that a new elevator, or stair lift, could cost closer to $80,000 (not including renovation to the venue itself). Right now, we don’t have a solid number that we are confident enough to say it is the price that will get the work done. There are a ton of variables, as to location, style of lift, and company that we work with. With that said, it seems like there may be some options that are much more realistic in a reasonable time frame.
Additionally we have officially paid off our taxes, which means that we can hopefully get our foot in the door with government grants to help fund accessibility.
Continue to follow this story by keeping up to date on our Accessibility Updates