Following the successful 70s dance party and silent auction fundraiser held on October 3rd, the DJC Accessibility Initiative would like to share the following statement from Eastminster United Church with our community:
Eastminster United Church has a strong commitment to upholding values of social justice and equity. In our statement of affirmation, “we affirm all people, regardless of ability, age, gender, race, gender identity, or sexual orientation in the membership, ministry, leadership, and life of this congregation.” To this end we have recently embarked on a journey to create inclusive spaces where all are welcome. Currently, numerous barriers to participation exist at our building for people who use mobility devices and people with various mobility challenges. The Eastminster United Church building hosts a number of important programs and services that promote health and well-being, support community capacity, and enhance education and skill development. To fulfill this mission, it is critical to ensure the provision of and access to this broad range of community events respects the dignity and independence of people with disabilities.
Eastminster United Church has a long history. The first sanctuary, now the Auditorium with the stage, was built in 1910 with additions in 1912. The current sanctuary was added in 1923. There are 32 levels in the building but there are four where the majority of activity takes place; Basement, Sanctuary, Auditorium, and Balcony. None of these spaces are reached without negotiating at least one set of stairs. The building is currently used by a large number and variety of community groups in addition to the United Church congregation and the Danforth Jewish Circle. Most evenings the building is fully booked.
In response to the congregation’s desire to improve accessibility and present a new face to the community, a proposal has been developed to provide barrier-free access to three of the four main levels. The balcony has multiple levels and restricted travel paths that make access to impractical. In order to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the building code, provision for accessible washrooms on each of the Basement, Sanctuary, and Auditorium levels is needed. We are proposing a replacement of the current Jackman entrance ramp and porch to provide direct access to the Sanctuary level. The lobby would be raised to the Sanctuary level and new powered entrance doors with enhanced lighting would be provided for the Jackman entrance, the main entrance for community groups.
A new addition adjacent to the Jackman entrance would accommodate a Limited Use Limited Access (LULA) elevator that would have stops on each main level. The addition would accommodate an accessible washroom on the Sanctuary level and elevator machinery in the Basement. Accessible washrooms would be provided in existing space on the Basement and Auditorium levels. New shower facilities would be provided in existing storage space in the Basement.
This project is the first and most significant effort in the overall programme to improve accessibility to the Eastminster building. The project cost for this phase is estimated at $705,000. The plan presumes that our fundraising activities will include special events, the submissions of grant applications, and the solicitation of charitable gifts from individuals, service clubs, corporations, and other entities. At this time, we are reaching out to our various neighbours, friends, and community groups to share our challenge and seek support for this initiative.
Establishing a climate of inclusion ensures that everyone visiting the Eastminster United Church building, for whatever purpose, experiences a sense of belonging and value. We are proud of this initiative and feel it is an important step towards creating an equitable and socially just environment for all. We hope and trust that all who use the building will support our journey to make the it accessible.