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Sudbury ramp project aims to create 'community that is inclusive for all'

A project is starting in Sudbury, Ont., to build brightly coloured, portable ramps to improve accessibility by filling the elevated gaps that exist between sidewalks and storefronts.

'We're in the year 2000 what, 2017? Still, Sudbury has a long ways to go,' says accessibility advocate

Construction technology students at Lively District Secondary School will build accessibility ramps for StopGap Sudbury this fall. (CBC)
Daniel Lebrun tries to enter a restaurant in downtown Sudbury, Ont., but his wheelchair cannot climb the elevated four inch space that exists between the door and the sidewalk. 

"With the weight of my chair, it is impossible for me to get in," Lebrun said.

"The chair itself is 300 pounds. I'm 165 so you need somebody with a lot of strength."

Lebrun, 46, has been using a wheelchair for 30 years since a spinal cord injury.

He said he runs into accessibility obstacles daily.

"You're not aware of these things unless you're faced with a disability or with someone with a disability," Lebrun's partner Nadine Law said.

"There's a lot of frustration."

'A community that is inclusive for all'

Law, 46, was researching spinal cord injuries last February when she said she stumbled upon an ad for the charitable organization StopGap, which builds brightly coloured, portable ramps for single-step storefronts. 

"It just sat with me," Law said.

"It sat with me for about a month because we've been faced, since Dan and I have been together, we've been faced with accessibility issues or I've noticed it."

Law contacted the organization's founder, Luke Anderson, and arranged for the project to come to Sudbury.

"These ramps help businesses create inclusiveness, support the human right to access space in any location, as well as increase the storefront's business by making it accessible not only for people in wheelchairs, but for those with mobility devices whether it's a scooter, walker or even mothers with strollers," Law said.

"It's not a permanent solution, but it's going to bridge that gap ... Our aim is to create a society, a community that is inclusive for all."

At least 20 inaccessible storefronts in Lively

The first ramp is expected to be completed in Sudbury in a few weeks. 

Construction technology students at Lively District Secondary School, where Law works, will start building StopGap devices in the fall for interested businesses. 

Law and Lebrun also plan to do an audit over the summer to count the amount of downtown businesses that do not have ramps.

They have already tallied at least 20 inaccessible storefronts in Lively. 

'Win-win situation'

"We're in the year 2000 what, 2017? Still, Sudbury has a long ways to go," Lebrun said.

"With the StopGap Foundation, it's just creating that much more accessibility for the community. It'd be just great to bring that to all the businesses."

StopGap Sudbury is accepting donations on its website and Facebook page.

It is also looking for businesses to use its ramps and more volunteers to build them. 

"It's a win-win situation for them [businesses]," Lebrun said. 

"I'm pretty sure as soon as one business will install one of the ramps, the other businesses will catch on and hopefully they'll be able to be encouraged to approach StopGap or us approach them and they'll accept a ramp for their business."

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

Reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a network reporter for CBC News based in Toronto. She previously worked in Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter @CBCOlivia. Send story ideas to olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.