The StopGap Ramp story began on a blustery November day in 2006, when Toronto resident Luke Anderson encountered inaccessibility at a very inopportune time. Anderson, a recently injured paraplegic, arrived for a job interview — but three steps stood between him and the elevator. He entered the building through the loading dock and, despite being 45 minutes late, was hired on the spot. His employers purchased a collapsible ramp, but needing it set up every morning was less than ideal. “It was a logistical nightmare and a real infringement on spontaneity,” he says. Thus was he introduced to the limitations created by inaccessible buildings.
By this time, Anderson was quite familiar with the numerous Toronto businesses that had steps at their entrances. His frustration grew and Anderson knew he had to do something. Unfortunately, Canadian businesses aren’t required to ensure access unless they undergo a significant renovation.
After much consideration, Anderson decided the best way to bridge the accessibility gap was to offer businesses free ramps. The StopGap Initiative held its inaugural community ramp build in 2011. During the event, volunteers built custom ramps from supplies donated by Home Depot and painted them in a variety of vibrant colors. Anderson says the color choices were deliberate because he wanted the ramps to draw attention and make people curious. By the end of the day, volunteers and business owners saw the importance of StopGap’s mission. “It taught people that a simple device like a ramp could really make life easier for everyone,“ he says.
The StopGap campaign has conducted several other successful events and with nearly 150 ramps built, Anderson would like the momentum to spread across Canada. For Anderson the greatest reward is seeing attitudes being impacted. “Some businesses have genuinely realized the value of having that ramp outside their storefront,“ he says. “It has changed people’s perception of accessibility.“