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Accessibility, Ark, and Ark Platform/Bimah
How have we accommodated physical accessibility to the ark and reader's table?
The reader’s table will be on the floor, as is our current custom. We will recommend a table that can be adjusted so that someone in a wheelchair can have an aliyah, read Torah, etc. There are two ramps to the ark, one from each side. Although the drawings don't show it, the steps will have handrails. The ark covering will be easy to open and close.
Could we consider putting the ramp in the front and the steps on the sides? It would make a powerful statement about not sidelining accessibility and help prevent kids from tripping and injuring themselves on hard stone.
Frontal ramps are a much less efficient use of the space. Because of where the exit doors and supporting columns are, the ramps would need to be at least 12’ 10” away from the walls. The area between the ramps and walls would essentially become a very large walkway — we couldn’t put seats there, because they would be behind the ramp. On a typical Shabbat, that might not be a problem. But on high-attendance days, like the High Holy Days, we may need that area for seating.
Why are steps necessary? Why not have everyone use the ramps?
Some people prefer steps; some prefer ramps. Including both accommodates both preferences.
Why have steps and ramps at all? Why not have the ark at floor level, like the reader’s table?
The committee gave serious consideration to this possibility, which is radically inclusive: everyone approaches the ark the same way. In the end, we decided that elevating the ark provides a stronger sense of place and permanence, as well as the opportunity for literal aliyah — going up, as at the ancient Temple.
Will the new bimah design accommodate, for example, when all the kids join at the end of Shabbat services?
Kids will still be able to gather around the reader’s table for Ein Keloheinu and Adon Olam. We’re considering ways to create a special place for them to sit (on the floor, benches, or elsewhere) between those prayers, and especially during Mourners Kaddish.
Are the planters on either end of the bimah to screen the ramps? Could they be more minimalist or sheer so there’s no risk of blocking the view of those who may be on the bimah?
The planters are intended to partially screen the ramps but not the bimah/ark platform. They’re just one suggestion for topping the half-walls along the ramps.
Will the electronics (sound and T-Coil) be reused in the new design?
The new sound system has not been designed yet. We intend to improve upon our present electronic capabilities. Wherever possible, we will reuse current equipment if it allows us to meet our goals of improved acoustics, auditory accessibility, and security. (For more on sound and acoustics, please see below.)
Will the floor covering allow wheelchair users to propel their chairs without too much effort?