Free, portable ramps making Halifax businesses more accessible
'This is the best Christmas present ever, to see this happening in our community'
A simple, inexpensive fix to barriers encountered by people with mobility issues is taking place in downtown Halifax.
Portable ramps, constructed by young people and volunteers, are being distributed free of charge to businesses.
"The project is getting people into businesses that they can't access right now," Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said Saturday at a Bedford site where the ramps were being built.
"We have a lot of old buildings that don't have ramps."
'Best Christmas present ever'
Six young people with Future Roots, a program that provides employment opportunities to youth in north-end Halifax, were cutting, nailing and painting the ramps Saturday.
Kathleen Dolan was part of the work crew. She wants to develop some work skills and help others in her community.
"This project is important because a lot of the businesses in the downtown aren't accessible to people with disabilities so it's important to create things like this," she said.
The skill-building experience is also important.
"I want a job so I can get money so I can be more independent with my life. I've learned a lot. Last year in school we used drills and other tools but not to create big things. So I learned how to use the different tools," Dolan said.
"This is the best Christmas present ever, to see this happening in our community with all the partners that we have, particularly the young kids," said Gerry Post. who uses a wheelchair.
He said the project, run by the city, Downtown Halifax Business Commission, and Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank, "implants a disability lens in them, to understand the needs of we have, people with disabilities."
'We're getting there'
Savage said Halifax is investing more in its municipal buildings.
"Our goal is to make Halifax the most accessible city in Canada by 2020," he said.
"We have a long way to go but we're getting there. Then we've got to work with others. This is part of recognizing that not everybody has a building that can be accessible easily and there are small things that we can do."
Even small height variances are frustrating to people in wheelchairs, Post said.
"These ramps have a limitation of 10 inches. But that helps us in a lot of establishments downtown."
The ramps' portability makes them attractive to businesses.
"It's a portable ramp so they put it up when it's needed," Post said.
He said the city say decals businesses can put in windows with a number people who need assistance with the ramps can call in to ask for help.
"I usually don't use that. I tag someone who's walking by to go in and ask them to put out the ramp. It works, it's very simple."
With files from Stephanie Blanchett