Vernon Paralympic wheelchair curler Sonja Gaudet (centre) offers some tips on how to make the historic Towne Cinema more accessible to Okanagan Screen Arts Society members Scott John (Left) and Susan Hodgson. (Photo contribued)

Vernon Paralympic wheelchair curler Sonja Gaudet (centre) offers some tips on how to make the historic Towne Cinema more accessible to Okanagan Screen Arts Society members Scott John (Left) and Susan Hodgson. (Photo contribued)

Decorated Vernon wheelchair curler ramps up accessibility conversations

Paralympian athlete Sonja Gaudet offers advice to Vernon’s historic Towne Cinema

Canada’s most decorated wheelchair curler is offering insight on how to make a popular Vernon landmark more accessible to people with mobility issues.

Vernon’s Sonja Gaudet, three-time Paralympic and World Championship gold medalist, and Canadian Curling and Canada Sports Halls of Fame member, toured the historic Vernon Towne Cinema Friday, Feb. 12, to offer recommendations on how to make the aging building more accessible to people with mobility issues.

Gaudet was there 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, were excited to show Gaudet around.

“This is a great opportunity,” Gaudet says 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 that ramp that Gaudet wants installed.

“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,” says John.

He says the society soon realized the cinema could not accommodate wheelchairs.

“That was a trigger point,” he says.

John says there are also movie patrons with walkers and mobility challenges who would benefit from a ramp fitted in the lobby of the cinema.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the Save the Towne Cinema campaign can go to the GoFundMe page for more information.

READ MORE: Historic Vernon cinema focus of GoFundMe campaign

READ MORE: Vernon Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

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