An anniversary event for the Langley Pos-Abilities Society has prompted the Township to buy a wheelchair accessible stage for the first time.
Pos-Abilities is celebrating its “10+1 anniversary” this year, after plans for a 10th anniversary in 2020 were quashed by the pandemic.
The Nov. 20 event at George Preston Recreation Centre in Brookswood is to feature the participation of local politicians, a tribute to the volunteers who keep the group going, and guest speaker Stephanie Cadieux, a Liberal MLA and former cabinet minister, who uses a wheelchair.
However, there was no ramp for the portable indoor stages the Township uses at its rec centres. Pos-Abilities founder and executive director Zosia Ettenberg wrote to the Township to ask them to remedy that issue.
In the past, she notes, it has meant that wheelchair users can’t speak from the stage at public events, and have to address people from the floor.
The Township has made strides in the past towards greater accessibility, Ettenberg said.
“I thought, well, why don’t you take another one?”
She wrote to the Township to ask for greater accessibility via a stage with an accessible ramp.
On Monday, Nov. 1, Township council unanimously approved spending up to $50,000 towards a ramp and indoor stage.
Right now, a Township report noted, the municipality owns two portable outdoor stages, but neither is considered ideal for indoor events and neither is wheelchair accessible.
Because the George Preston Rec Centre hosts a number of trade shows, awards banquets, and craft fairs, including the upcoming Pos-Abilities event, but lacks a stage, it would be a good home base for a ramp and stage, the Township report said.
“A portable accessible stage will improve the Recreation Centre’s ability to host events and will enhance experiences for all. It will also ensure that all individuals will have equal access to present and perform at this facility,” the report said.
Councillors had some questions about the expense and the durability of the ramp and stage.
Township administrator Mark Bakken noted that the ramp and stage has to be designed properly, with a relatively shallow incline to be truly wheelchair or scooter accessible.
“They have to be fairly large, and they have to withstand some significant weights,” he noted, as electric wheelchairs and scooters can be quite heavy.
Maintenance will be relatively simple, as the solid-metal stage and ramps will just have to be repainted every few years. It should also have a long lifespan if it’s taken care of properly, Bakken said.
With the stage approved just 20 days before the event, Ettenberg is hoping the Township will be able to buy it and get it to Brookswood in time for the event.
The 10+1 celebration takes place on Saturday, Nov. 20, with the doors opening at the George Preston Centre at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m. Tickets are $50 and the event includes entertainment and a 50/50 fundraising raffle draw. People attending must be fully vaccinated and show their COVID passport and photo ID.
Ticket sales may be extended past the deadline of Nov. 6, Ettenberg said.
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