After three years of ups and downs, careful planning and $1.5 million in gifts, the Hart House elevator is finally in operation, serving the five floors of the 85-year-old building.
Now all visitors, including those with mobility difficulties, are able to dine at the Gallery Grill or view the building’s many artistic works. The gleaming bronze elevator also connects the theatre lobby with the rest of Hart House. Guests no longer have to exit the theatre and re-enter Hart House to get to other parts of the building.
“The elevator means a facility such as Hart House, which is a cultural, athletic, academic and religious home to many, now has one more word under its belt – accessible,” says Rini Ghosh, president and CEO of the Students’ Administrative Council (SAC).
The project was funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage, the SAC Wheelchair Access Fund, the students of U of T (through a levy), the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, the Audrey S. Hellyer Fund and others.
“Hart House has a wonderful history and it’s such an important part of the university,” says Mauricette Howlett, Ontario’s director of programs for the Department of Canadian Heritage. “This elevator is not only for people who are disabled, but also for all people with limited mobility such as parents with strollers, and the elderly. Making our institutions accessible and available to all Canadians is a driving force behind many of Canadian Heritage’s funding programs.”
The elevator also makes a strong statement about welcoming students with disabilities, says Julia Munk, founder of Students for Barrier-Free Access at U of T. “Hart House has always been a hub of student life,” says Munk. “The elevator allows all students to feel a part of what is the largest student centre on campus.”