Toronto engineer honoured for building accessible ramps

Luke Anderson received the Everyday Political Citizen award from civic advocacy group Samara Canada on Thursday, designated by the United Nations as International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

Luke Anderson had to use one of his own creations to access the building to accept the award

Five years ago Luke Anderson started engineering plywood ramps, like this one, as a cost effective way for business owners to become accessible.

A Toronto engineer who created a simple, user-friendly ramp that's made hundreds of businesses more accessible is being honoured for his work.

Luke Anderson received the Everyday Political Citizen award from civic advocacy group Samara Canada on Thursday, designated by the United Nations as International Day for Persons with Disabilities. 

"To be nominated blew me away, being shortlisted left me speechless, but to win – I'm at a loss for words," he said. 

So far, he has supplied 800 businesses in Toronto and the GTA with the ramps free or at low cost. 

"As a wheelchair user I am affected by barriers in our communities that prevent me from accessing the spaces that I desire," Anderson said.

Anderson said a few centimetres of gap between the pavement and the first step of a building can be a significant barrier for wheelchair users. 
Luke Anderson won the Everyday Political Citizen award, handed out by Samara Canada, for his work in engineering ramps that make businesses around Toronto and the GTA more accessible. (CBC News)

"Our ramps are super brightly-coloured so people notice them and it gets the conversation started about the problem," he said.

He even had to bring one of his own ramps to access the building where he accepted his award, prompting Michael MacMillan, a co-founder of Samara Canada, to consider a more permanent solution to the building accessibility problem.

"The irony of the difficulty accessing this building underlines the importance of his work exactly," said MacMillan. 

Samara Canada promotes citizen engagement and hands out the award every year to three Canadians to recognize their important political contributions to society.

The other winners of the award are Hana Woldeyes, a 17-year-old advocate for newcomer youth, from Vancouver and Cory Nicotine, a Cree man from Saddle Lake, Ab., for starting a program that breaks down cultural and religious barriers among youth.