In January of 2021 when we moved into our new building at 9 Samuel Street, we had high hopes for making our new space fully accessible by installing a ramp or chair lift. We planned our bathroom to have an accessible sink and toilet, and had a few fundraisers (community classes in the summer of 2021, and selling some of our jade plants in the winter) towards our accessibility efforts.
We are sorely disappointed to let the community know that after many months of research, we are not able to make our building fully accessible at this time.
There are several factors that we can explain below, but the main point of this update is to express our disappointment in this outcome and express our regret to community members who may have been hoping for a different outcome.
There are several realities we’ve had to reconcile with, one of which is the size of the front of our property. The size of the front yard doesn’t allow enough space to meet the requirements of the length of a ramp needed to access our front door. A chair lift would fit, but the cost of a ramp or chair lift, and the maintenance included brought up the next reality, that of our financial limitations as a small business. As a small business still recovering from very lean times during the pandemic, we don’t have the resources to afford either option without additional help. Many federal accessibility grants that might have made this project possible are no longer available, and we weren’t able to find any other funding that we qualified for.
In the end our fundraising efforts raised about $1500, which in the end would be about 2% of what it would cost to make our building fully accessible.
We’ve decided to put the funds raised towards improving the safety of the front walkway and eliminating one of the steps so that those with some mobility challenges will be able to access our front steps more easily. Our front entryway will still include five steps to get into the front door. We will continue offering ground floor programming like Chair Yoga and Adaptive Yoga for those that are able to use the entry stairs, and we will continue to offer virtual options for others to join from home.
We are also hopeful that grants may become available again in the future, so we are holding the possibility that becoming fully accessible may be possible at some point.
In terms of accessible programming, we think the way forward is to partner with community organizations and spaces that are already fully accessible, to offer classes in spaces other than our Samuel Street location. Here’s where you come in! If you’re passionate about this issue, and know of community organizations or spaces where we might bring The Branches vibe, get in touch with us and let’s see where things go! In order for classes like these to be successful, we need dedicated community members ready to promote and advocate for these classes alongside us. So let us know if you’ve got energy to start an initiative with us.
We’re also looking forward to one of our more accessible offerings coming up this summer; Yoga in the Park! We’ll be offering free classes in two downtown parks this summer. Go here for all the details. We’re glad to be partnering with the City of Kitchener to put on these free, all-ages events.