Already celebrated as a wheelchair accessibility pioneer in Toronto, Luke Anderson has made the next step.
He’s on a quest for more accessibility in Canada and has announced a new initiative to help increase access in another city that desperately needs it – London Ont,.
The Stopgap Foundation is aimed at making Canadian businesses more accessible through a portable wooden ramp as an alternative to installing lifts, or a permanent ramp.
While Anderson and his team of dedicated volunteers plan to start surveying businesses in London over the Easter weekend, they chose June as their proposed start date for the building portion of the project.
To succeed in the Forest City, Anderson said he will need a lot of dedicated volunteers and a lot of material donations. But, based on his experience in the city of Toronto, he is confident that the London project will be successful.
“The goal is to relieve 50 single-step entries. I think we can build 50 ramps fairly easily just from our experience here in Toronto. And that’s a goal we’re trying to knock out of the park,” Anderson said.
In cities there is an inherent barrier to entry for all those who physically can’t use steps. While there are plenty of business with multi-step access, the Stopgap initiative, according to Anderson, is only focused on single steps.
“It’s particularly important here in Ontario specifically because of the province’s desire to be barrier free and fully inclusive by 2025, and it’s just not happening. It’s just a deadline that I’m convinced we’re not going to make,” Anderson said.
Anderson was a graduate of the Waterloo University civil engineering program and an employee of Blackwell Structural Engineering in Toronto when he started Stopgap in 2011. Over the span of four years, Stopgap supplied over 300 ramps to city of Toronto alone. Stopgap also supplied ramps to businesses in Halifax N.S., Orillia, Stratford, and Stevenson B.C.
Anderson, who was the victim of a horrible bike accident that put him in a wheelchair twelve years ago, took a one-year leave from his job at Blackwell to undertake the Stopgap project fulltime. And in that time he has faced a number of roadblocks.
One of the many challenges for the Stopgap is city bylaws.
“There is pre-existing bylaws that prevent business owners from having anything out on the boulevard,” Anderson said.
Anderson said, changing bylaws is also something he and his team have considered. For now, business owners sign contracts saying they will lay down the ramp whenever a potential customer needs it, but due to most city bylaws, the ramp would need to be removed right after.
“It’s time to start changing people’s minds about barrier-free amenities,” he said.
Anyone wanting to find out more or wishing to make a donation can do so at stopgap.ca