A corridor built in 1966 that grants access to Montreal’s Place des Arts will be more accessible thanks to a $ 4.2 million grant from the Quebec government.
The corridor, which will be the subject of major works, connects the complex to Place des Arts metro station. A staircase will first be demolished, then a long replacement ramp with a gentle slope will be built along the entire length of the 50-metre corridor.
Just over three-quarters of the amount will go to renovate the structure. The rest will be used to refresh the corridor.
The renovation, which was announced on Sunday, will make it easier for people with reduced mobility to access the six rooms and other spaces of the complex.
“Often, we talk about access to culture in the sense of offering the chance to all Montrealers and all Quebecers to appropriate it, (…) but today we are talking about access in its most essential sense: that of access to culture for all,” said Chantal Rouleau, the provincial minister responsible for the metropolis of Montreal.
Nearly 80 people ask for help each evening to get to the halls, according to Place des Arts. Some are in wheelchairs, others equipped with a walker or a cane, and some are blind.
The work is expensive because it affects Place des Arts building, said Nathalie Roy, minister of culture and communications.
“Every penny will be justified,” Roy said.
“Place des Arts is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture so we must set an example. We are in 2020. We must make it accessible.”
The places for people with limited physical capacity at Place des Arts are currently underused. Only 500 of them are occupied each year when it could be 16 times higher.
According to the minister, this work will prevent people with disabilities from missing out on cultural shows.
“It’s a right,” she said.
The announcement of this renovation delighted Laurence Parent, a board member with the Société de Transport de Montreal (STM) who has made it her mission to be the voice of Montrealers with disabilities.
People with reduced mobility have a lot of difficulty navigating the City and its metro system, according to Parent. Which can make daily tasks a nightmare.
“It’s not possible right now, there’s just no access using the metro,” said Parent. “Well, the closest [accessible] station is at Place D’Armes. I came using the metro this morning so I got off at Place D’Armes and then I had to wheel on St-Urbain.”
“(I) think it’s really good that we have access for everybody, even for disabled people,” said STM user Philippe Ducros.
The Société de Transport de Montreal has gotten a lot of backlash in recent years for its lack of accessibility but some are hopeful.
“I feel it’s a priority but you know public transit is a huge issue in Montreal,” said Parent. “There are many things that need to be done so, of course, we have to make sure that it’s gonna stay a priority.”
Some, on the other hand, think the investment comes at a hefty price.
“I think that’s a lot of money and there’s a lot of topics that need of lot of money like culture like the First Nations and I’m wondering if that amount could be spent in a better way,” said Ducros. “I think that’s a very flashy investment.”
But for Parent, this could be a stepping stone to the way people think about disabilities and their need for accessibility.
“It’s important to have culture accessible so that people you know its not just we think about people as spectators but people can also be artists,” said Parent.
The start of works is scheduled for April 2021 and the corridor should reopen in March 2022. The project has been entrusted
to the company Atelier TAG. The work will be linked with that of the Société de transport de Montréal.
— With files from The Canadian Press
© 2020 The Canadian Press