Build It and We Will Come
Brightly coloured ramps are popping up all over Toronto and throughout the province of Ontario. Stop Gap Ramps is the brainchild of Luke Anderson, a wheelchair user since becoming a quadriplegic at the age of twenty-four. Anderson says his frustration “boiled over” after realizing that lack of accessibility is a “pandemic issue” in not only the city of Toronto, but across the country.
Anderson wanted a way to make accessibility possible for any and all local businesses. Businesses can submit a request for a ramp along with the measurements of the doorway and steps, and get a custom-made ramp for their entrance. Initially, all business owners were asked to help pay for the costs of builds, but many businesses operate on budgets that don’t allow them to accommodate those extra costs. Anderson went back to the drawing board, determined to find a way to get ramps to businesses for free.
Since its inception four years ago, Stop Gap has become a registered charity. Community Ramp Projects operate with the help of volunteer builders and donated materials. These builds take place when there are requests from multiple businesses in a specific area and upon completion, ramps are provided to those businesses free of charge.
Executing these projects starts with educating local businesses on the importance of accessibility. Response to this educational outreach is usually very positive, but sometimes he encounters a response that Anderson finds frustrating: “Oh, no, sorry. We don’t get customers with wheelchairs here.” Of course if a business is not accessible you will not have customers in wheelchairs! But, build it and we will come.
Business owners can request a ramp on an individual basis along with a donation of approximately three hundred dollars, to help cover the cost of material.
Along with educating local businesses on the importance of accessibility, Stop Gap is helping to fuel discussions of accessibility within the government. Anderson says, “There really isn’t a whole lot being done to stimulate the conversation; here in Ontario we have our AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act)… online you’ll see a statement that the AODA strives make Ontario fully accessible by 2025, which is a misleading statement… Ontario will never be fully barrier free by 2025, specifically with the existing environment."