City staff kindly met with OOECA and CAG representatives and with Christine Honsl – an OOE resident who uses a chair for mobility – to review proposed plans for a ramp that would provide access from ground level to the first floor of the Old Town Hall (OOE’s community centre).
The community welcomes the city initiative to restore access to the first floor, something that has been lacking because of the malfunctioning of the old elevator. However, it is also worth noting that both this elevator and a proposed ramp still will not allow access to the second floor of the Old Town Hall. We recognize the budgetary constraints that have led to the city’s not addressing this longstanding problem but want to ensure that at some point this lack of second floor access be fixed.
In terms of the proposed ramp, OOE representatives strongly recommend that lay-out be simplified so it is:
- more practical for users
- easier to navigate
- easier to maintain, especially from snowfalls
- detracts less from the critical west (Main Street) elevation of the heritage building (one of just three in Old Ottawa East)
OOE representatives propose that the ramp start from Hawthorne rather than from Main and run alongside (parallel to) the south face of Old Town Hall before turning north at the southwest corner of the building then, as currently proposed, terminate at the reconstructed front porch entrance. This, if accompanied with a curb drop and a disabled parking spot, at that location would:
- not detract from the look of the front of the building
- allow for better pick up/drop off by ParaTranspo and other adapted vehicles on Hawthorne, as opposed to Main where stopping is not permitted.
- fewer turns with this approach is easier for maneuvering a wheelchair
- fewer turns will be easier for snow clearance hence improved accessibility in the winter.
The city currently proposes that the ramp start at the front (Main Street) steps so that those using mobility aids may arrive from a bus on Main or Hawthorne west of Main, immediately see the ramp and then access it, using the curb cuts at the corners of Main and Hawthorne.
This results in a ramp that dominates the façade of the building, and is accessed from Main Street where there is no stopping for vehicles and has three 90 degree turns rather than just one (maybe two) with what the community is recommending. The extra turn(s) would make the use of the ramp more difficult, particularly for larger motorized scooters. In terms of maintenance, we are particularly concerned that the new ramp is well cleared of snow and this would be made easier were the ramp simplified as is proposed by the community.
The visual impact of what is proposed significantly detracts from the western face of Old Town Hall. Also, the proposed ramp would consume much of the southeast corner of the lot and would require the relocation of a lovely tree that currently provides a lovely natural aspect to the front elevation.
One other consideration is the community’s proposal is more elegant than what is currently proposed, probably would be less expensive to build and easier to use.
We hope that the plans will be modified to reflect the community’s position. We appreciate that there are regulations regarding accessibility and that the heritage status of the building needs to be respected. We feel, however, that there needs to be some balance for ease of use.