By Cam Tait – Oilers Entertainment Group
Don’t be surprised if you see Zachary Weeks leading a victory parade down 104 Ave.
The die-hard Edmonton Oilers fan uses a power wheelchair because he has cerebral palsy. Zachary, and other members of the City of Edmonton’s Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC), recently had a two-hour Rogers Place tour with OEG and City of Edmonton staff. And, typical Zach: wearing a bright orange Oiler jersey he used a hockey analogy for what he saw.
“Almost a half a decade ago, we set out with a vision to win OUR Stanley Cup in terms of what we would like to see patrons with disabilities experience, (in a new building),” Zach said, who is chair of AAC’s community engagement subcommittee.
“I think we did it.”
“There are so many things that impressed me about Rogers Place. There is attention to detail on every level when one thinks about accessibility and inclusion for it all. I think the one thing that truly impressed me is that there is accessible seating options at every level with world-class sight-lines. “You can literally now watch the game or your favourite musician from anywhere you choose.”
Fans with physical disabilities now have 73 spots for mobility seating, plus 73 spots for companion seating, for a grand total of 146 spots in Rogers Place. They are located throughout the arena: 54 on the 100 Level; 48 on the 200 Level; a dozen in the Sportsnet Club; eight in the Sky Lounge and 24 on the PCL Loge Level.
Rexall Place had 48 spots— 24 accessible and the same number for companions — in four locations on the main concourse.
Zachary and the AAC started the ground work in 2011. Katz Group, who oversaw the construction of Rogers Place, reached out to retired University of Alberta professor Bob Steadward. Bob has a long history of working with people with disabilities and was a member of the founding International Paralympic Committee. Bob connected Katz Group with AAC which lead to a 2012 consultation on Rogers Place.
“I am confident that people will enjoy a world-class experience that may just be as iconic as the building itself.”
The AAC made recommendations to Katz Group on many items, including: stairways and ramp signage, washrooms, spectator seating areas, player benches on ice level, counter tops, hearing impairment devices and the drop off area for the Disabled Adults Transit Service on the north side of 104 Ave.
Zach says the group is pleased with other areas of Rogers Place.
“We absolutely loved the multi-level reception area counters and the incorporation of loop system devices for those people who are hard of hearing. Also the use of light, the lower counters at all food service locations, very wide halls, and the larger gate access for ticket holders in Ford Hall,” he said. “Gone are the worries of overcrowded corridors on the mezzanine level, finding an available accessible washroom.”
“Need an elevator? No problem — there are many to choose from.”
There’s a total of 14 elevators inside Rogers Place: 10 inside the building to be used to guests with tickets.
“But there’s more,” says Zach.
“I like that they (Rogers Place staff) are putting a lot of detail in the training of staff when it comes to customer service and meeting diverse needs. It illustrates they are very aware of ensuring everyone enjoys their experience at events, especially when it comes to accessibility,” he said. “I am confident that people will enjoy a world-class experience that may just be as iconic as the building itself.”
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