Shul that’s a model to them all

By Robyn Rosen, August 12, 2010

Cheshire Reform Congregation, also known as Menorah Synagogue, was previously housed in a 1960s flat-roofed, prefabricated building which was designed to have a 30-year life.

In 2004 work began on fund raising and designing a new building. Construction began in the summer of 2007 and the new building had its first service on Kol Nidre at the beginning of October 2008.

The new building, also single storey, was constructed to meet all the relevant requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and Document M of the building regulations.

Reuben Saffer, director of estates for the congregation, said: “Menorah has a number of members who are wheelchair users, as is one of the paid office staff.

“When designing the new building, the architects — BFAW from Manchester — and I consulted and sought the advice of the staff and one long-standing member who is a wheelchair user and previously a choir member who was concerned about bimah access.

“The community believes in absolute equality in prayer, community and social activities and the building has been designed to be ‘barrier free’.

“Every Shabbat the community reads a special prayer which asks ‘that the community should not be a stumbling block to those of limited mobility or uncertain feet’. It believes it has gone some way to meet this aspiration through the design of its new buildings.

In fact, the shul has four dedicated car parking spaces and a drop-off point with dropped kerb close to the building. It has a wheelchair user key pad access, an inductive loop and the bimah has a graduated ramp allowing access for those wishing to go to the ark and reading desk with or without assistance. A lift arrangement in this area was not considered as they tend to be intrusive and demeaning.

There is a fully compliant wheelchair WC. The colour and position of light fittings has been designed to provide maximum clarity for those with visual impairment.

The sanctuary, office, meeting hall and library are level access, as are the gardens, kitchen and external patios.

Last updated: 2:35pm, August 12 2010