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Downtown Accessibility Ramp Project Kicks Off

By Scott Dunn, Sun Times, Owen Sound
Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A project to install free accessibility ramps at downtown business entrances kicked off Wednesday at Dr. Cobbler Shoes and Swirls. Project working group member Christine Farrell, left, proposed implementing the StopGap Foundation project in the city. Shopkeepers Ron and Camille Cole, centre, are joined by working group members Andy Underwood in his wheelchair, and behind them, Fraser Lines and Jim McManaman.

OWEN SOUND – The Dr. Cobbler Shoes and Swirls store is the first in the city to receive a free, StopGap portable ramp to make it accessible for people in wheelchairs, those with wheeled walkers and simpler for people pushing a stroller to enter.

The StopGap Foundation was started in 2011 to make “mom and pop” businesses more accessible. Now there are more than 1,000 portable ramps in more than 50 communities across Canada, mainly in Ontario and the western provinces.

The first lime green ramp was placed in front of Ron and Camille Cole’s store Wednesday.

They joined members of a local working group for a ceremonial kick-off to promote use of the ramps downtown.

As many businesses as possible will be contacted over the next few weeks to take orders. OSDSS construction students will measure the entrances of any stores for ramps whose shopkeepers express interest in having them.

So far Heartwood Home, Awesome Blossom and Sweetpea Wholesome Baby have all come onboard too, said Christine Farrell, who proposed the StopGap ramp project in Owen Sound.

Ron Cole, who’s also a Downtown Improvement Area Board director, agreed with the idea immediately. “It’s a no-brainer. Why would I want to keep anyone from my store?”

Each store receiving a ramp will also place a sign in the window with a number to call to ask someone working inside to put out the ramp. The ramps are intended to be used as needed, not left outside.

The aim is to have all the ramps built and installed by June 1, for the Fresh First Friday shopping event downtown.

The project has the blessing of the Downtown Improvement Area board, city council and its accessibility advisory committee.

Farrell, an occupational therapist, raised the StopGap ramp project at the accessibility committee, though it’s not an accessibility committee project.

She sits on the committee with city councillor Jim McManaman and they, with Home and Community Support Services executive director Andy Underwood, who uses a wheelchair, and high school teacher Fraser Lines, form the project working group.

Underwood said he typically knocks on the window at Dr. Cobbler and Ron comes outside to help him. Underwood said he hopes this initiative will lead to permanent changes which see all store entrances renovated to become accessible.

It’s already much better since the city renovated main street during the last so-called Big Dig. That’s when a number of building owners took advantage of the disruption to make their entrances more handicapped accessible nearly 20 years ago, he said.

Lines’ Owen Sound and District Secondary School construction class of Grade 11 and 12 students built and painted the bright green ramp which leads to the Dr. Cobbler shop. The ramps are based on StopGap designs, using paint which provides a grippy surface.

Home Depot has agreed to donate enough materials to meet the demand for the ramps, making them available at no charge. That would be about 20 stores downtown, Farrell said.

To add your name to the list of stores wanting a ramp, contact Christine Farrell at osrampproject@gmail.com, call her at 519-871-8003, or visit the group’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/StopGap-Owen-Sound-Ramp-Project-1957395147907641/

Original at http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2018/05/09/downtown-accessibility-ramp-project-kicks-off