Ramping up access: Moose Jaw students learn about accessibility issues by building free ramps for businesses
Sask. Polytechnic students have now built around two dozen brightly coloured ramps
Some Moose Jaw businesses will be able to welcome more people, thanks to the addition of new ramps — built by Saskatchewan students and provided free of charge.
Students in the architectural technologies program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic's Moose Jaw campus collaborated with StopGap — a Canadian charity that works to improve accessibility — to deliver the ramps to businesses in Moose Jaw and around the province.
Reg Forbes teaches in the architechtural technologies program. He started building the brightly coloured ramps with his students last year. He said he learned about accessibility challenges from his uncle.
"My uncle was in a wheelchair and I hung out with him a lot. I experienced the inaccessibility then — that was in the '70s," he said.
"So I'm really happy and proud to be doing this now."
This applies what they learn, and it also gets them out into the community and doing something good for people.- Teacher Reg Forbes
Students in the program have built about two dozen ramps so far. Last year, they focused on businesses in Moose Jaw.
This year, ramps will be distributed to businesses in Regina, Saskatoon, Tisdale and Biggar, among other places.
"This applies what they learn, and it also gets them out into the community and doing something good for people," Forbes said.
The ramps, brightly coloured to make them visible, are custom made for each building, and built to be temporary so businesses can bring them in and out as needed.
"As someone who doesn't have mobility challenges, it's not something that I ever really think about," said Brett Suwinski, 35, a student in the program.
"Even in a small place like Moose Jaw, it's surprising just how many places provide challenges for people with mobility issues," he said.
"[It's] surprising how many older neighbourhoods … that there are still those barriers."
As part of the course, students find businesses in their own hometowns — Saskatoon for Suwinski — they can build a ramp for.
"It didn't take long for me personally to find a couple of businesses in Saskatoon who were interested," he said. "They're all committed to helping people with accessibility. It was a terrific response."
That kind of business response is common, Forbes said, as they're able to offer the ramps free of charge thanks to sponsorships.
The program is good for students too, said Suwinski.
"There's just a great feeling when you know that you've done something that really benefits and makes a big difference in people's lives."
Forbes wants to keep the program going in years to come, hoping to eventually hit 100 free ramps.
"I'm kind of old, so I might not be around the school much longer. So 100, it might be achievable," he said with a laugh.
He also hopes the students will take what they've learned from the ramp project into their future work.
"They will apply accessibility to everything that they design and work on in their careers," Forbes said. "And they bring awareness [of] accessibility in whatever they do."