Curling club making accessibility top priority

“We thought: why don’t we do the whole deal and make the whole place accessible?”

Aligning with the City’s goal to reach a Rick Hansen Foundation gold standard in accessibility, the Williams Lake Curling Club has prioritized making the facility and the sport of curling as inclusive and accessible as possible.

In January, the WLCC announced its plans to construct an elevator lift system to provide people of all abilities an opportunity to fully participate and enjoy the sport of curling. With that will also come the ability to house guests of all mobility levels at community events and functions.

Ken Hall, president of the WLCC, said when the current building was constructed in 1977, accessibility for mobility-restricted people wasn’t a major consideration.

The building was constructed with three levels: a main entrance area that houses the club’s main office, junior curling program office, change rooms and washrooms; the ice surface for curling and summertime rentals; and an upstairs social gathering area and lounge, which also provides a bird’s-eye view of the ice surface for spectators.

Throughout the year the club enjoys strong support from the community and hosts curling leagues for all skill levels, several bonspiels, community events and youth programs.

Currently, the three levels are only accessible by stairs as the club was recently told its outdoor wheelchair ramp needed to be closed due to it not being to code and compliant for insurance purposes. It was also steep, deterring many visitors from using it, Hall said.

Read More: Curling Club up registration as 2019/20 season now in full swing

“We were going to rebuild it and our insurer said we had to close it, and all of a sudden we would have had to build a 120-foot long ramp,” Hall said. “Then we started looking at what we could do inside, and our first thought was a sit-on lift, but those are not approved for commercial use.”

With some renovations planned for the future, anyway, Hall said they started looking at other options.

“We thought: why don’t we do the whole deal and make the whole place accessible? We feel like if we can make the whole facility accessible, including the ice, it’s nice for people to be able to get in here and we feel it’s our primary job as the curling facility for the city.”

John Dryden, secretary of the WLCC, said they are now busy applying for grants, fundraising in the community and working on being granted a charity status, from the non-profit society they currently are, in order to help with grant applications and making the elevator project a reality.

All told, he expects the total project cost to be around $150,000.

“We’re excited and we’ve got a very involved board,” Dryden said. “We’ve already received support from so many organizations so it’s looking really good.”

The elevator system will allow the curling club to host even more events for the community and expand its programming, such as wheelchair curling, events for youth with mobility challenges and even curling for the blind, which Dryden explained curl while sitting down in a wheelchair in most cases.

“We’ve got quite a few of our older members who, even now, can’t get upstairs to come watch curling, and it would also help make our [popular] stick curling league even more accessible to people,” Hall added.

As for the time frame for the project’s completion, Hall said the drawing has already been completed, and added they should have a pretty solid budget nailed down in the next week or so.

“We’re now looking for some funding from the community, even if it’s just a little here and there,” he said. “It all adds up.”

The WLCC has applied for a grant through Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program, and is waiting to hear whether that has been approved, however, in the meantime, plans to begin work this summer on the elevator system. They’ve so far received roughly a dozen letters of support, including from Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty and Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett.

For more information, or if you are interested in contributing financially to the project, contact wlcc@shaw.ca.



sports@wltribune.com

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