One of Guelph’s most well-known cultural landmarks is about to get a facelift, and it will be one that will make the facility accessible to all. Later this week, the Bookshelf will announce a campaign to raise funds to renovate and make it’s second floor amenities accessible to patrons with physical disabilities.
“The Bookshelf is honoured and excited to announce the Official Launch of our Elevate Guelph construction and fund-raising program,” said a press release sent to the media this morning.
Now the Bookshelf has a number of accessibility issues that have been cost prohibitive to rectify due to the age of the building that the store is based out of. While the first floor bookstore and the Miijidaa cafe next door are largely accessible, Miijidaa’s washrooms are in the basement and are only accessible by staircase.
At the same time, all of the Bookshelf’s second floor business – the Green Room, the eBar, and the cinema – are only accessible by one staircase at the front of the store, a second staircase just inside the door to Miijidaa, and a third, less used and narrower staircase in the back of the shop. Additionally, the main access to the cinema is up a small flight of steps that lead to the back of the theatre, although there is a second entrance to the theatre from the Green Room where there are no steps.
So the project will be delicate and costly given the space restrictions. Local architectural design firm Grinham Architects is overseeing the project.
Phase one will be the construction of elevator, with additional accessibly improvements including improved cinema access, the creation of an accessible gender-neutral bathroom on the second floor, and wheelchair access to the eBar. According to the press release, the total cost of the project will be one quarter of a million dollars.
Some of the required funds will come from a community fundraising effort, but the Bookshelf is already ahead of the game with a $100,000 grant from the Government of Canada’s Enabling Accessibility Fund Program. According to the Federal government’s website, this program, “provides funding for eligible capital projects that increase accessibility for people with disabilities in Canadian communities and workplaces, creating more opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in community activities, programs and services, or access employment opportunities.”
Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield will be on-hand at the project launch to make remarks.
“Overwhelming community support has allowed the Bookshelf to survive and thrive for over 45 years in difficult economic times,” said the release. “We are thrilled that a group of Guelph citizens is launching a fundraising campaign as part of the Elevate Guelph program.”
For many, this news is a welcome surprise as the Bookshelf’s lack of accessibility has been an issue in the past.
In 2010, accessibility advocate Matt Wozenilek took the Bookshelf to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal alleging discrimination based on the fact that many of its facilities are inaccessible to people with a physical disability.
“Very few of (the events), unless it is on the main floor, can I attend,” Wozenilek told the Guelph Mercury at the time.
Original Bookshelf owner Doug Minett told the Mercury that his options were as limited at the time as they were in 1998, the the before that when the Bookshelf went to the Human Rights Tribunal. “We participated in a thorough review and the (Ontario Human Rights Commission) ruled that we were doing all we could possibly be expected to do, given the old building and nature of business,” he said.
Sadly, Wozenilek passed away in 2016.
Members of the public are also invited to come to the project launch to hear from the speaks and see the design plans. The Official Launch of Elevate Guelph takes place this Friday, May 17, at 10 am at Miijidaa, 37 Quebec St. downtown.