Heartwood Community Cafe [formerly Rhizome Cafe] Access Audit

http://www.heartwoodcc.ca/ http://rhizomecafe.ca/ 317 East Broadway, Vancouver, (604)872-3166.

Access Overview:


Full Audit:



Link to Recommendations:


Google Map of Heartwood:




The folks at Heartwood say it best in their own words:

Heartwood Community Cafe is a queer-friendly neighbourhood cafe that nourishes the spirit of social justice and liberation.”


Heartwood (formerly Rhizome) is located in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, close to Main and Broadway, and is a queer-and-trans-friendly, kid friendly, creative and welcoming community space. Located next to shopping, pharmacies, cafes, restaurants and accessible transit, Heartwood is a convenient hub for gathering.


The main space of the cafe is wheelchair accessible. There is an automatic door which is in need of repair as of this audit in June 2011. Upon entering, you’ll find a community room to your right, which can be closed off for meetings. Seating throughout the space includes benches along the wall, tables and chairs, a couch and some lounge seating. The kitchen, bar and counter are at the back.


Also at the back are the gender-neutral washrooms, both of which are on the same floor as the rest of the space. Neither can fit most people using a wheelchair or scooter, though the larger of the two may be accessible to some folks using smaller wheelchairs, or who can get up and leave their chair in the hall. There are ongoing discussions about how to increase the access to the washroom. Stay tuned for updates, and/or let Heartwood know your thoughts. In the meantime, the only solution for some folks is to go next door to the wheelchair accessible washroom at the Starbucks. Relationships with these neighbouring businesses must be maintained though, so please let Heartwood know if you ever have any issue using this alternative space.

Please note that there are no tampon dispensers, sharps containers or scent free soaps provided at Heartwood (event organizers may provide scent free soaps, please check with them), so please come prepared!


All staff are able to assist in bringing food and beverage to tables, and are really open about making space for folks and keeping an aisle clear during packed events. If you’re hoping to get a seat at a well-attended event, you’ll definitely want to get there early, because it fills up really fast.


Please note that there is not currently a scent-reduced policy in place at Heartwood, though specific events will have their own policies. Refer to these resources if you’d like to learn more about how you can help create a safer environment for folks with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities:

Fragrance Free Femme Of Colour Realness, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha:

A FAQ on MCS and being scent-free


On making your event scent-free or scent-reduced:


On products you can use to reduce your use of scents:



There is free parking on the surrounding streets, bike lockups outside (these used to be right outside, but are now located about 100 feet down the road), and accessible transit right outfront.





Bathrooms (most relevant to the 1st, larger bathroom, which could be wheelchair accessible with a few modifications), but some can apply to both rooms:

  • ensure there is an audit of the bathroom space at Starbuck’s while you’re using it as an accessible alternative;
  • move toilet paper dispenser (in 2nd bathroom) back a few inches so door can open more fully;
  • install grab bars (one along the north wall, and one long one above the cistern;
  • lower the paper towel dispensers and soap dispensers in 1st bathroom;
  • lower the mirror in the 1st bathroom or provide tilting mirror;
  • remove the current baby changing table (as it blocks a rather large amount of possible clearance) in 1st bathroom and replace it with an easier-opening, more efficient fold-down table attached over the cistern;
  • provide a higher toilet seat, preferably 19” high or more
  • install a lever door handle in place of the knob, or an easy-slide locking mechanism
  • lower the coat hook to less than 48” high, consider providing a slender fold-down shelf at similar height
  • Consider these options for increasing internal space of the 1st bathroom while not requiring structural changes:
    • re-hinging the door so it swings outwards. This may create problems since the hallway is right there, but may still be an option worth looking at with some creative solutions to potential hazards;
    • the door itself cuts into the available accessible space, so as a bare minimum upgrade consider removing the current door altogether & replacing it with:
      • an accordion style door;
      • a pocket door;
      • a bi-folding door;
      • a sturdy lockable curtain
      • a roller door combined with a pocket door (basically, a door that rolls up to the side then tucks into a side pocket so it doesn’t take up door width)
      • other ideas for an appropriate secure closure?
  • Consider these ideal, maximum accessibility solutions for the 1st bathroom, which would require some structural changes:

– widen the doorway (it’s currently 29 ½” wide but needs to be 36” wide)

– move the south (sink-side) wall south another foot or two (towards the office). This would certainly cut into the office space, but with some reorganization, it could work, and with a different door setup would create one entirely accessible bathroom with relatively limited structural changes, and wouldn’t unduly impact capacity.
– you could also move both the south and north office walls further south to create more bathroom space while retaining the office size; but that would of course require more work and may cut into that cubby space more than you’d like to.

Other recommendations:

– Ensure the auto door is working in both directions (it wasn’t working on audit)
– Work on making the signage more uniform (while retaining the flavour!), with larger (at least 22pt font), more contrasted (preferably black on white), and on a non-glare surface. Provide a few large-print versions of the menu and events lineup as well.
– Consider lowering the condiment station to a maximum of 48” high
– Must create and post an emergency evacuation plan and post at both doors. Ensure it conforms to accessible signage guidelines.
– Consider adopting a scent reduction policy. This can be difficult in a restaurant/ cafe setting, but certainly not impossible. If a policy isn’t the way you want to go, you can also create a more scent-reduced atmosphere without invoking a policy by: storing all cleaning supplies etc in sealed containers; providing scent free soaps in bathrooms; switch to low/no scent cleaners; ensure scent awareness is part of all your promotional materials; ensure that staff do not wear perfumes/ colognes/ etc; and so on.


If you have any questions, concerns, additions or kudos regarding this accessibility audit, please email me at: rampvancouver@gmail.com

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