Gold-medal Paralympian Sonya Gaudet offering advice to make Towne Theatre more accessible

Accessing an old theatre

A gold-medal Paralympian is offering advice on accessibility to Vernon's oldest theatre.

Sonya Gaudet, one of Canada’s most decorated wheelchair curlers, toured the historic Vernon Towne Cinema to offer insight into how to make the aging building more accessible to people with mobility challenges.

Gaudet was acting in her capacity as regional universal access tourism specialist with the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA).

Members of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society, Scott John and Susan Hodgson, showed Gaudet around.

“This is a great opportunity,” Gaudet said of renovation plans for the venue which has been open since 1929. “There is so much space to make the (30th Avenue) entrance accessible and put a ramp in.”

Gaudet also checked out the rest of the venue for improved access opportunities.

The current proprietor of the Towne is expected to retire this year and Okanagan Screen Arts Society volunteers hope to step in to keep it open.

The nonprofit society is currently appealing for donations from the public and business to update the space and to build the accessibility ramp Gaudet recommended.

“One of the spurs to resolve accessibility issues, was a plan at one time to premier a local documentary about living with spinal cord injuries,” said John, adding the society soon realized the cinema could not accommodate the wheelchairs.

“That was a trigger point.”

John said there are also movie patrons with walkers and mobility challenges who would benefit from a ramp.

A Gofundme page has also been set up to raise funds to keep the historic theatre open

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