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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

StopGap Ramps Up Opportunity

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 13 November 2012 00:00

In a world continually searching for that "one great idea," would you recognize it if you saw it?

Usually, once a brilliant idea is fleshed-out with full marketing pizzaz, we recognize the clever simplicity in the resulting "must have" product or service. A few people may say, "I thought of that a few years ago…" but they did not act on their inspiration the way that Luke Anderson and Michael Hopkins did.

Engineers Anderson and Hopkins wanted to eliminate barriers to entering buildings. Accessibility is often restricted by "we've always done it that way" building codes and construction standards. The design duo describe their inspiration as the "elevator chats" they had every time Hopkins had to take the elevator down from their office to help Anderson into the building. Anderson, in a wheelchair since a mountain-biking accident at 24, needed assistance setting up the temporary ramp to cover the barrier represented by the entrance steps.

These three steps might have been 100 as far as Anderson is concerned. He also found that the day-to-day drain on spontaneity, caused by entrance delays over stairs and gaps in sidewalks, represented accessibility challenges that begged an inexpensive, universally-applicable solution. Engineers refer to simple, practical, inspired solutions as "elegant," and the StopGap Ramp is as elegant as solutions come.

StopGap Ramps in action
(photo used with permission from

The site (created as ) announces that "StopGap is creating a world where every person can access every space through fun and engaging community projects that raise awareness and remove barriers."

According to Anderson, "ramps simply make life easier for everyone and we are intent on communicating this through our project." All your who, what, why, when, where, and how questions will be answered on the site and facebook as these highlights demonstrate:

  • Inspiring photos of "ramped up" neighbourhoods like downtown Stouffville, Ontario, and Toronto's Junction reveal the colourful transformation from door-matted barriers into "welcome matted" accessible entrances for those with wheel-chairs, walkers, strollers, heavy loads to carry…those with great shoes to protect (bumping shoe tips on cement stairs has ruined many a beloved pair)…and almost anyone else. Ramps rock.

  • The Community Ramp Project (CRP) contributes all the instructions, including a donation-request letter and project brochure, to make it easy to "ramp up" your neighbourhood. The video "How to Build a StopGap Ramp" explains exactly what is needed to create several ramps at once, while it details and diagrams the do-it-yourself steps for creating a ramp. The CRP Ramp Component Calculator Spreadsheet makes customizing straightforward.

  • Connections to education through The Ramp Man storybook and Anderson's school presentations are profiled to inspire others to take StopGap further.

  • StopGap and its temporary solution highlight one aspect of accessibility that requires legislation like the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to create lasting improvement. Anderson said: "We will have fulfilled our goal once we get municipalities to create legislation of their own which would state that all storefronts be permanently ramped."

    Ironically, business owners may be even greater beneficiaries of StopGap Ramps, along with their able-bodied customers and their neighbourhood.

    According to Anderson's email: "Many business owners believe that a ramp will introduce a tripping hazard. We address these concerns in a number of ways:

  • First, we assure the business owner that the ramp is to be used only when there is a need…We educate potential participants and let them know that the ramps are not designed to building code as they are not deemed a permanent structure. This has been verified by a number of building officials in Ontario, as well as British Columbia.

  • We have developed a waiver that states that the ramp be used on a temporary basis and with this knowledge the business owner takes on the responsibility of its use.

  • BUT, the number one objection that business owners have with ramping their doorway is the assumed cost…however, when we let them know that it doesn't cost them anything they soon change their mind.

  • Based on the renovations that were recently done at our office we have noticed that many people enjoy using the ramped portion of the entrance instead of the stairs….We have noticed that parents pushing strollers and delivery people always use the ramp…In [the same way], most people use the automatic door opener.

  • Something to note, despite the small cost of having a ramp built outside of our program, businesses do not understand the payback. When a storefront is converted into an entrance that is accessible to everyone they, all of a sudden, increase their customer base, and (from feedback we have received from ramp project participants) create a storefront that is more welcoming."

    The brightly-coloured ramps, stencilled with "," deliberately attract attention to create conversation about accessibility, and channel interest to the website where it can translate into purposeful action. StopGap is currently competing for votes to win funding from the Aviva Community Fund . The goal is a van outfitted as a mobile shop to take the Community Ramp Project into neighbourhoods across the country á la Terry Fox.

    The StopGap Ramp is an elegant solution, but it remains only a great idea unless you help it ramp up your neighbourhood. Who said, "Give me a ramp and I can move the world?"

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