Accessibility doesn’t have to be costly if you think outside the box. Here’s a great example from a heritage listed theatre. To overcome the usual wheelchair places on the flat surfaces right at the front and way down the back, this little portable device created by John Evernden means wheelchair users can sit almost anywhere in the auditorium. It saved the Council thousands of dollars in renovations. Patrons no longer have to crane their neck at the front, or squint at the back. Win – Win all round. Here’s John’s explanation:
Members of the audience who use a manual wheelchair or power chair have had problems with the sloping floor of the heritage-listed, 90 year old heritage listed theatre. Some who have poor upper body strength have tended to flop forward.
The alternative was to be seated on the level surface close to the stage, where one has to constantly look upwards to the stage, or to be seated on the level surface behind the back row, where viewing is difficult for people who have vision impairment.
I was asked by the Council to propose a solution whereby sections of the floor could be re-designed so that they could be automatically or electronically raised to the horizontal position when required. Such alterations would be difficult and expensive in this building, so I proposed that a local supplier be approached to build a rubber ramp that would have a level surface when laid on the sloping floor.
Council subsequently purchased 10 of the ramps seen in the photograph. Seats near an aisle in several parts of the Theatre can be removed and the short ramps placed so that the front wheels of a chair can be placed on a level surface. The ramps have an up-turn at the front (painted white) to prevent overrun. Feed-back has been very positive.