StopGap Community Ramp Initiative
Luke Anderson - on behalf of all of the supporters of the StopGap initiative
October 14, 2012
Overview:Physical barriers in our built environment prevent many of us from enjoying some of the amazing buildings and spaces that our cities and communities have to offer. As a power wheelchair user I have learned first-hand what it is like to be denied access. There is nothing worse than showing up at a music venue for a concert with a bunch of friends super excited to see a show only to find out that there are 15 steps separating the street level from the ground floor concert hall. Over time I developed thick skin in order to overcome the immense frustration that encounters with physical barriers would cause. But just over a year ago my armor failed me and my frustration boiled over while looking for a spot for a Friday afternoon refreshment with my good friend and coworker Michael Hopkins. Enough was enough and together we decided to do something about this huge problem that exists in every community across the country. Together we formed StopGap - an initiative with a goal to raise awareness about barriers in our built environment.
Our first project that we have embarked upon is called The Ramp Project. With material donations from community hardware stores volunteer labour from inspired community members businesses with single stepped storefronts are invited to participate and have a custom ramp made at no cost. The brightly coloured ramps do not present a perfect solution to the problem however they create curiosity and get people talking about this huge design issue. The project has introduced many to the human right to equal access and has broadened the conversation on this topic.
The ramp project has been successful at highlighting how a simple ramp can make life easier for everyone. Participants have shared that a ramped storefront is more inviting. Parents pushing strollers, couriers using dollies to handle heavy packages and people using mobility aides all benefit from a barrier free storefront. The project has also proved that business owners are able to increase their customer base by providing a storefront that everyone can enter and exit. Supporters of the initiative hope that through these types of projects communities will create legislation of their own instead of waiting until the projected due date outlined in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) – that being 2025.
We have launched this project in five communities and as a result have helped create inclusivity at more than 100 businesses. Word of this exciting project has traveled quickly and Michael and I find ourselves being bombarded by requests from community business improvement associations and other organizations across the country wanting to take part. We want these groups to be able to take on their own Ramp Projects in their respective communities and we want to help them make it happen!
Inspired by Terry Fox, our dream is to hit the road in a vehicle equipped with a mobile shop, make our way across the country and create change in different communities along the way. We truly feel that this project has the capability of touching every community across the country and based on the huge success of our past projects we know that it will make everyone's lives easier and ultimately help create a more inclusive society free of physical barriers.
For more information visit our website at www.stopgap.ca and vote for us!