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'So important': Busby ramps up accessibility at new Barrie space

'We move to people instead of people moving to us. We are in continuous planning and development to improve our accessibility,' says official
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The Busby Centre, located in downtown Barrie at 88 and 90 Mulcaster St., has a ramp leading to the main floor.

Taking over an historic building in downtown Barrie is going to be a definite boon for the Busby Centre, but it’s not coming without work.

The building, located at 90 Mulcaster St., and which initially served as the Sisters of St. Joseph convent as of 1885 until it became St. Joseph’s High School in 1946, wasn’t constructed with accessibility in mind.

But with provincial regulations now in place under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA), building owners are required to meet certain requirements intended to reduce and remove barriers for people with disabilities. 

Sara Peddle, Busby Centre's executive director, says staff have been working diligently to ensure the new 10,000-square-foot space, which is adjacent to the organization's base of operations at 88 Mulcaster St., meets those requirements.

There is no elevator in the building, she confirmed, noting officials are in the process of working on accessibility updates, which have already been submitted to the appropriate government department. 

“There is a ramp up and into the main area and we are working on a ramp for 88 Mulcaster as well so that it is more accessible,” she told BarrieToday.

Peddle says the main floor of both building are set up for accessibility, however they are in need of improving the facility's accessibility access to the buildings.

"We are currently in the planning and development stages of the external to internal access paths for 88 and 90 Mulcaster. Most of our services can be accessed at the main-floor level," she added. 

There are certain standards the organization is required to meet, Peddle said.

“Is it that every floor is accessible? We wouldn’t have that, but we do have accessibility accommodations for people and making sure we can be inclusive,” she said.

With no elevator in the building, the plan would be for staff to instead go to the client on the main floor, Peddle said.

“We would go to them — that is the accommodation. We have set up the main floor so that you don’t have to do the stairs," she said. "That’s just for everything, because not everybody wants to do those stairs.

"That’s why the main floor is so important to make sure we have that flowing of (services) and it’s as inclusive as possible so we can utilize those spaces as universal spaces," Peddle added. "We have also set up open meeting rooms for anyone to be able to access to meet with our staff or visiting partners."

The organization says it wants to ensure it doesn't ever have to turn anybody away for services due to its location.

“We want to make sure that any one that is needing those services — whether they have mobility challenges or not — can still come in," Peddle said. "We want to reduce those barriers as much as possible because everybody needs support. We want to be as universal and inclusive with that as possible."

They are doing that by creating spaces within the floors that are accessible and also making sure that its services are universal to move to these floors. 

“We move to people instead of people moving to us,” she said. "We are in continuous planning and development to improve our accessibility."

The community-based, not-for-profit organization paid $4 million on Aug. 8, 2023 to buy 88 and 90 Mulcaster St., in downtown Barrie, from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Simcoe County branch.

The plan for 90 Mulcaster is to house the organization’s drop-in program, as well as to provide office space for staff of both Busby and other social service organizations.


About the Author: Nikki Cole

Nikki Cole has been a community issues reporter for BarrieToday since February, 2021
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