New coloured ramps make Hamilton storefronts more accessible

Around Hamilton, there will be 12 fewer doorsteps with inaccessible entrances, thanks to a ramp-building project at the Hamilton Tool Library. Provincial legislation requires buildings to be accessible by 2025.

Hamilton Tool Library has orders for more than 75 more ramps

Hollie Pocsai tests out her new ramp at her boutique White Elephant in Westdale. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Around Hamilton there will be 12 fewer doorsteps with inaccessible entrances thanks to a ramp-building project at the Hamilton Tool Library. 

Provincial legislation requires buildings to be accessible by 2025. There was some legal nervousness that kept signups low for the project, but that seems to be dissipating: At least 75 more businesses have indicated they want a ramp, many along Barton Street. 

On Thursday, the tool library's Vivek Patel delivered five brightly coloured removable ramps built specially to fit the doors of offices and businesses downtown, in Westdale and in Dundas

One of them is Rockin' Coffee on King Street West, a store specializing in single-serve coffee pods. 

"Now all our customers can get in here," said Alycia Kozuh as she tested out the ramp Thursday morning.

The first ramps, built over a volunteer weekend last month and finalized this week, are going out to their new homes this week. They were first to take advantage of a tool library endeavour to increase accessibility and awareness that many businesses and buildings around Hamilton are not friendly to people with limited mobility. 

The library opened on King Street East at the start of the year with thousands of tools that paying members can rent to work on home or building projects. About 180 people have signed up for paid membership so far, and Patel said the library hopes to push for increased numbers in the spring.

Meanwhile, library will have to work out how to recruit more volunteers and accomplish the hefty order for more ramps, he said.

As shop owners recognized the new ease with which customers would be able to get inside their front doors, the response was almost identical: "This is awesome." 

Andrea Sloan, a hearing instrument specialist at Zabell Hearing Centre in Dundas, ordered a ramp to ease entry into the clinic's sound booth. 

The simple ramps are made of plywood, painted bright colours and made portable via a rope handle. Following the lead of a Toronto-based organization called StopGap, the local project aims to provide an easy solution to businesses that have steps at their entrances. 

Some of the shop owner nervousness had to do with conflict over similar ramps and the city of Toronto. But Hamilton's bylaw and public works officials say under three conditions the ramps are OK: 

  • the ramps are temporary
  • they're not attached permanently to the building
  • they are "on-demand only" and removed immediately after each use

"If the ramp was left out during business hours it would have to not interfere with the safe direct pathway of passing pedestrians and others with accessibility needs," said Ann Lamanes, spokeswoman for the city's bylaw enforcement department. 

Vivek reminded shop owners Thursday that the ramps are to be deployed when needed, depending on the way the store entrance intersects the sidewalk. StopGap advises business owners to put up a sign, post a phone number, or rig up a simple doorbell to alert staff that there is someone outside who needs to have the ramp deployed.


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