Garden Cinema: Do a better job at becoming a business providing enjoyment to all

Published: 6/24/2019 7:45:02 PM

We are writing as the chairwoman of the Greenfield Commission for Disability Access and as a member of the Greenfield Local Cultural Council, in response to the June 20 article in the Greenfield Recorder concerning the Garden Cinema.

While we are in favor of asking the Architectural Access Board (AAB) for an extension to complete required work at the Garden, we are also very concerned about the lengthy pattern of non-compliance that has been well-documented in the AAB’s April 17, 2019 decision. It is important for the community to know that this is not a story of onerous bureaucratic regulations affecting a local, small business. The AAB has been trying to work with the Garden since 2012, a period of seven years and 90 days.

It is clear that this business repeatedly failed to make progress, not just on expensive and complicated architectural changes, but also with simple changes that would allow the public to know whether a film was being shown in an accessible theater, or whether their lift was functioning. In February 2018, the Commission for Disability Access requested that this information be clearly posted whenever the lift was out of service. This information could have easily been made available on the business’ website and at the theater, the same way it provides general information about the films being shown, but it was not.

A lift is not just for people who use motorized or manual wheelchairs. Potential patrons who cannot manage stairs, for whatever reason, would benefit from this alternate means of access. No public notices are clearly posted when the lift is out of service, which is often. Modifications have been made to the interior to improve accessibility but, ironically, these cannot be utilized when the lift is out of service. It is neither difficult nor arduous to make this information readily available to the public on the Garden’s website and at the cinema in formats and locations that are obvious and easily readable.

The Garden Cinema has access to a community block grant, which is a 0 percent deferred interest loan, which does not need to be paid back until the building is sold. This is a resource that the Garden Cinema could use to help do the work of becoming an accessible business. There are other resources this business could also use to get help developing strategies that would allow it to become increasingly inclusive. Sadly, these resources were not explored by the business until there was a threat of financial penalty from the AAB.

In the decision by the AAB, it states “The behavior of this important, local business not only disappoints and disrespects the Architectural Access Board, which repeatedly tried to provide the flexibility needed for it to comply with 521 CMR, it also disregards the needs and rights of persons with disabilities within and around Franklin County.”

Everyone in our community knows that we face challenges in making older buildings comply with 21st century values. It is with disappointment that we call on the Garden Cinema to do a better job at becoming a business that provides enjoyment to all members of our community.

Lynne Kelley is chairwoman of the Greenfield Commission on Disability Access and Joannah Whitney is a member of the Greenfield Local Cultural Council.

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