New community ramps hopes to improve accessibility for wheelchair users in Halifax
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It’s Friday afternoon and Terri-Linh Hua-Ayles grabs a power drill off a nearby counter to drill one of the final nails into a wooden ramp she's just built.
Donning a bright red hard hat and navy blue overalls covered with patches of sawdust, she explains the small blue ramp is one of around 13 others ready to be delivered to businesses around the city to improve their wheelchair accessibility.
“The sheer satisfaction of knowing that I’m doing some good for someone else, it’s pretty great,” Hua-Ayles said Friday.
The idea to build moveable ramps for the community was born out of a partnership between the Mayor’s Office and the Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank’s carpenter assistant’s program, said Rob MacNeish, the project’s skills development officer.
The initiative, called StopGap, works to provide local businesses with small moveable ramps to close the three to nine inch gap between their storefront entrances and sidewalks to provide better access to all customers.
“I said basically this is perfect for our program,” MacNeish recalled on Friday when he said staff first introduced the project.
Gus Reed is a wheelchair user and says it’s been more than a year since he asked the city to consider supplying community ramps and is encouraged to finally see the move taking shape.
Usually businesses are deterred from building ramps due to the costs associated and burdensome building code requirements, he explained on Saturday.
“People have a thousand reasons why they don’t want to do something like this, but it turns out just to be incredibly simple to do and pretty inexpensive.”
On Friday, MacNeish said a handful of ramps have already been delivered to businesses, such as Hali Deli restaurant on Agricola Street, with at least a dozen more planned to go out next week.
In total, he said as many as 40 businesses could receive new ramps.
Besides improving accessibility, MacNeish believes the project allows his students--who are on social assistance or newly graduated and hoping to acquire more employable skills—a chance to see their work come full circle.
“This is an employability program helping people get out of their potentially negative situations at the same they’re helping the larger community by learning.”