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Accessible Tasting for All

Posted By GRANT LAFLECHE , STANDARD STAFF
Posted December 26, 2009

At first blush, the wine tasting the ordinary. It’s a bar where Creekside Estate Winery customers can saddle up and have a drink.

But look past the customers standing at the bar and you’ll see something different. Around the side of the polished brown bar is another table top a few feet lower. It’s designed for those in wheelchairs who cannot reach the bar.

Combined with wider isles, ramps, low tables and other features, the winery’s retail shop is designed to cater to those with accessibility issues because of disabilities.

“We renovated the store in 2007 and when we drew up the plans we had accessibility issues in mind,” marketing director Matt Loney said.

By making the store completely accessible, Creekside is ahead of the curve for Ontario private businesses, which will all have to follow suit in the next two years. The Ontario government is requiring all business and non-profit organizations to meet accessibility standards by 2012.

According to the Accessible Customer Service Standard, all

bar isn’t anything out hospitals, schools, municipal buildings and other public institutions have to be accessible to everyone starting Jan. 1.

The new standards go beyond wheelchair access. They also require businesses and public institutions to train their staff on serving people with disabilities along with making subtle changes, such as permitting customers to bring in their service animals.

According to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the ministry responsible for the standards, there are 1.85 million Ontario residents with disabilities, with an estimated spending power of $25 billion.

While the ministry says in a news release it’s focus is on making Ontario accessible to everyone, making a business accessible can also mean getting a part of that multibillion-dollar pie.

Loney said both customer service and profit were behind the redesign of the Creekside retail store.

He said the renovation plans were drawn up before the new standards were being discussed publicly.

“We wanted our store to be accessible to everyone who visits,” he said.

The accessibility designs might not be obvious unless you are looking for them. The floor space in the store was boosted from about 750 square feet to about 8,000 square feet. Loney said it was done in part to make the store less cramped and improve the building’s ability to host larger events. But it also allows for wider isles, giving someone with a disability plenty of room to manoeuvre.

Other changes, including easily moveable shelves, the wine tasting bar and an access were all worked out during the renovations, he said.

The store has received several awards for the renovations, including commendations from the City of St. Catharines and Niagara Region.

More information about the accessibility standards can be found at www.accesson.ca

glafleche@stcatharinesstandard.ca

Article ID# 2237748

Reproduced from http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2237748