An Update on the Disability Access Pavement Lift
Silabodhi, our Chair, recently wrote to people in our Buddhist Community about our ongoing plans to install a disability access lift outside the Centre. Here’s what he had to say:
I am writing to you in the knowledge that the matter of enabling people with various physical or visual difficulties to enter the building more easily, or even at all, is a matter of importance to all of us in the Manchester Buddhist Centre community.
This project, for which we raised some funds as part of the Ground Floor project in 2016, has been subject to a series of delays, and I am well aware that this needs some explanation.
The original disability access scheme centred around the need for an external access lift, since a ramp would not fit in the front of the building. We gathered quotes for this installation which came in at the time (Sept 2016) at about £35,000. Unfortunately what we didn’t realise was that if such access is enabled, building regulations state that fire safety measures must also be upgraded throughout the building even on floors to which wheelchair users might never require access. With a recent rise in lift cost estimates plus building alterations required to all floors, the total cost of the scheme now stands at £75,000.
Whilst having a strong desire to make our centre as accessible as possible, the Centre’s trustees have had to take some tough decisions about financial priorities. The following three points summarise our discussions:
1. The Centre has been losing substantial sums of money for several years. Our primary responsibility is to put our yearly accounts on a firm positive footing before any large sums can be spent on capital projects. We are taking measures that are already beginning to bear fruit with regard to this problem.
2. The Centre can have no future if we don’t mend the roof. If rain continues to get into the upper floors, the building will degrade rapidly and be completely beyond reasonable use in the coming years. Fortunately, we think we have identified the best way to raise the £270,000 or so needed. We are talking to our bank about remortgaging one of the Prestwich community houses which should release the necessary funds without the need to substantially raise our monthly running costs.
3. So far this year the internal lift has cost us £12,000 of repairs. It is vital for access to the upper floors for people with disabilities, which includes those also going to Bodywise therapies and some Breathworks pain and stress courses. The lift engineers have also given us a programme of a further £21,000 worth of highly recommended improvements and upgrades to carry out over the next few years if we are going to keep this elderly lift in safe operation for the longer future.
4. However, after consultation with directly affected community members, we have decided to pay for the installation of two smooth stainless steel handrails running up the exterior steps coming into the front of the building. We are confident that this will be of considerable help to people who find the steps difficult. These should be fitted in January or February 2020 at the latest.
In conclusion, these concerns need to be addressed before we can apply ourselves to the installation of a disability access system. This is a matter of considerable regret and not at all a desired outcome. We do, however, realistically anticipate that our attempts to improve the finances of the centre will bear fruit over the next few years, and we remain committed to making it happen.
We thank you for your patience and your support.
Yours in the Dharma