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Upgrades on the way for Harrison's Ranger Station Gallery

Agassiz Observer - 1/25/2019

The Ranger Station Art Gallery will be getting some much needed accessibility upgrades, thanks to $20,000 from the Village of Harrison.

In October, the gallery was assessed on its accessibility to people with disabilities and found lacking. According to a staff report, it required door widening, designated parking stalls, an accessibility ramp and an accessible washroom in order to be made usable for people with mobility issues.

The upgrades needed to be done quickly, community services coordinator Rhonda Schell said, because the art gallery would be hosting a show curated by Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture this fall. The show is intended to promote artists who are living with a disability.

"The community will really be on display to that community," Schell said.

According to Ed Stenson, president of the Kent Harrison Arts Council, there had been discussions about accessibility issues at the gallery when Kickstart approached the arts council.

"We certainly talked about accessibility issues at the gallery," he said. "Hopefully there would be some changes made prior to (the show). If not, we would have to sit down with the Kickstart people and figure out how best to make that all work."

There had been concerns about the accessibility of the gallery for some time, Stenson said. The three steps leading up to the front door had been a challenge for people in a wheelchair, as were the steps down to the washroom inside.

"We have had situations over the years where somebody in a wheelchair cannot access the gallery without a great deal of muss and fuss," he said. "We have had people who have come and basically have been turned away."

They had been looking at the accessibility issue with the main door "for a number of years," Stenson said, and the accessibility audit as well as the upcoming show pushed it to the forefront of the village's mind.

During council Monday (Jan. 21), councillors Ray Hooper and Gerry Palmer said they had concerns that the village was the only one responsible for funding these upgrades.

"I just don't want to see the whole cost of this fall onto the residents of the village," Hooper said. "Yes we have to consider accessibility, I've worked for the disabled all through my working life. But it seems everything is fallen upon us residents."

CAO Madeline McDonald said it was possible the village could apply for grants to pay for the changes, if grants became available within the budget year.

Councillors Samantha Piper and Michie Vidal indicated they were both in favour of the upgrades, as did mayor Leo Facio.

"It's worth the money to spend on this," Facio said. "Communities are having to advocate or do more in their communities for disabled people, and I am 100 per cent behind that.

"We'll be having discussions, I'm sure, as we move along for other areas in our community."

The council unanimously passed the motion to spend up to $20,000 to upgrade the gallery.

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