Cowbell Brewing Company, in Blyth, Ontario

Cowbell Brewing Company, in Blyth, Ontario


[swoosh] ANNOUNCER: Here is an
AMI This Week Shortcut with Alex Smyth. [music playing] ALEX SMYTH: Off
the shores of Lake Huron lies the small
town of Blyth, Ontario, home to Cowbell Brewing Company. In addition to brewing
delicious beer, they also have a great
restaurant on site. I’m excited to go try a bite
and have a drink or two. Let’s go. It looks like an old farm,
but Cowbell Brewing Company is a brand new building. It is owned and operated by the
Sparling family, who made it their mission to make the
building totally accessible from the parking lot to
the friendly front desk. EMPLOYEE: Welcome to Cowbell. ALEX SMYTH: It’s a bright, open
concept building with ceilings over 40 feet high. On the first floor, you’ll find
the restaurant and the bar, where you can sit with a pint
and watch the brewing process. GRANT SPARLING: You can
literally have a conversation with the brewmaster
up on the platform as you’re sitting at the bar. ALEX SMYTH: That’s
co-owner Grant Sparling, who says that
accessibility has always been key, from the
product to the community. It’s why they chose
to include Blyth. GRANT SPARLING:
Really, it was inspired by a local economic development. My family has been in Blyth
for three generations. We’ve had businesses here. My family all lives here. And the design of
the building itself we aim to be as
inclusive as possible so that everyone would
feel welcome here. ALEX SMYTH: To get there,
the Sparling family asked Julie Sawchuk
for some help. She’s an ambassador to
the Rick Hansen Foundation and a wheelchair user. When she shared
ideas, they listened. JULIE SAWCHUK: I’ve been
involved with Cowbell since the plans
were still on paper. And so the whole
idea of it being not just accessible, but
family-friendly, from 0 to 110. And really, what that
means is that a family can come and bring
anybody that might need that kind of assistance
and not have to worry about it. ALEX SMYTH: She
is one of only two accessibility certified
professionals, trained to evaluate
buildings in Ontario. Julie has assessed the
Cowbell Brewing Company, which made her the
perfect guide to take us through some
accessible features, starting outside with
sidewalks and dropped curbs, designed to guide you safely. So we’re standing in
front of the black mat. What is that? JULIE SAWCHUK: It’s what we call
a tactile indicator surface. So what it does is
it tells somebody with a mobility
device, or somebody who’s using a white
cane, that you’re coming up to a level change. ALEX SMYTH: Is this also heated? JULIE SAWCHUK: The
sidewalk is heated. So from here all the way
to the main entrance, the sidewalks are heated
underneath, melting the snow so that I’m not getting more
snow accumulating on my tires as I go into the building. ALEX SMYTH: The self-guided
tour continued inside with an elevator ride. The buttons give
tactile vibration feedback when you push them,
and there is a mirror inside for easy backward maneuvering
for wheelchairs and scooters. It makes it far easier to
be able to back out, knowing and seeing what’s behind you. JULIE SAWCHUK: Exactly. I know that nobody’s there. ALEX SMYTH: On the second
floor, Julie pointed out some more safety features. JULIE SAWCHUK: So you notice
the tactile indicators at the top of the stairs. They’re very tactile. ALEX SMYTH: Yeah, they’re
quite prominent metal kind of knobs on the floor so
you know where you are and where the stairs are. JULIE SAWCHUK: Exactly. ALEX SMYTH: In addition
to the tactile indicators, each stair has a
sandpapery strip so you can feel at
the edge of the step. You’ll also find two
high contrast handrails at different heights. All righty. Where to next? JULIE SAWCHUK: Oh well,
let’s go along the catwalk here, which gives
you the opportunity to see both the bar
and the restaurant. You can peek into
the kitchen, too, from up here, which
is kind of neat. ALEX SMYTH: Yeah,
some nice, open space, and it’s nice and wide as well. JULIE SAWCHUK: Exactly. ALEX SMYTH: I like coming
up because you can see all of the brewing equipment. I can see behind the
bar from up here. ALEX SMYTH: Gives you a
different perspective. JULIE SAWCHUK: Exactly. ALEX SMYTH: Next, we checked
out the universal bathroom. They have plenty of room
for mobility devices to move around. They also have grab rails
and adult changing tables. Next on the tour, the bustling
canning and packaging area, complete with forklifts. JULIE SAWCHUK: Here, you’re able
to see the action happening. ALEX SMYTH: Not only do you
get to see all the action in the warehouse
here, but it’s all done in an accessible
manner so a wheelchair user can tour the space,
whereas another brewery, even though you could get a
tour, it may not be accessible. JULIE SAWCHUK: Exactly. And the colour contrasts
and the bright lighting. So it’s pretty easy
to see what’s going on and know where the railing
starts and the platform. ALEX SMYTH: The black railings
and the light wood floors and walls, it’s easy to– JULIE SAWCHUK: It makes
a difference, yeah. ALEX SMYTH: It was that
attention to detail that boosted Cowbell’s
rankings in Julie’s accessibility assessment on
behalf of the Rick Hansen Foundation. Fortunately, Cowbell Brewing
Company scored very well. Unfortunately, that is a rarity. JULIE SAWCHUK: So
between 60% and 80% is what’s considered
certified, and then 80% and above is considered
to be gold certified. And they received
accessible gold, which is the top rating, through
the Rick Hansen Foundation. They actually scored 90%. GRANT SPARLING: We were the
first restaurant in Ontario to achieve that certification
and the first brewery in Canada to achieve
that certification. So it was a great honour and
glad that we could include her in part of the journey and
she could help guide us along. JULIE SAWCHUK: They
actually measure every day to make
sure that there’s enough space between
each of the tables, so that even if somebody
is sitting at it and I need to get past, I’m
not going to have to ask them to move out of my way. When you make your
business accessible, you bring everybody in, if
they could only get there. Cheers.

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