To make Sydenham Street United Church accessible and barrier-free, the Barrier Buster team will install a LULA-type elevator, running from the basement to the second floor, which is currently only accessible by stairs. This installation will provide access to the large upstairs assembly hall with attached kitchen, four offices, two washrooms and sanctuary balcony. Other aspects of the project include an accessible exterior entranceway and accessible washrooms.
Sydenham Street United Church (SSUC) is a heritage limestone building that has been serving Kingston since 1851. SSUC is an ‘affirming congregation’, so one of our prime objectives is inclusivity, which includes being accessible to all who wish to participate.
Currently about 16 not-for-profit community organizations use this building as a hub of operations, resulting in traffic of 800–1000 people a week. Both Cantabile Choirs and the Kingston Choral Society use the large hall on the second floor for rehearsing. With both having senior members, access to that hall can be a limiting factor for their continued participation. On one occasion a participant in an event was carried up two flights of stairs in order to attend!
SSUC provides affordable space for activities of not-for-profit arts, cultural and self-help organizations. A large hall and meeting rooms on the second floor are seeing limited use due to their restricted accessibility. Once the building becomes fully accessible, maximum use can be made of all available space, while continuing to be affordable for the users. Our project could be explored by other heritage limestone churches in downtown Kingston, as an approach to help preserve their beautiful buildings while also providing valuable spaces for the activities of community organizations.
Organizing the overall update project and thinking through the details of the Barrier Buster Project, caused us to pause and recognize the importance of clearly communicating how these renovations will break down the barriers so that community awareness of the needs and potential gets reinforced and enhanced. Small, but important, steps toward accessibility have been made in the past, but this project will be a giant leap forward, completing the task.