Monday, December 1, 2014

Signs Restaurant Ramp Saga!

Exciting times in awareness raising land! There is SO much buzz going on right now about the initiative and the need for increased accessibility in our communities.

Along with the newspaper articles that have been published about the city's orders to remove the Signs Restaurant ramp I just wanted to add some updates and view our opinion on the situation in greater depth in an effort to create further clarity. All of the latest articles and news pieces can be found in the media section of our website.

This is a great conversation everyone, it's this type of discourse that we were intending on creating when we started the initiative three years ago. This topic has many facets, from human rights to design issues. The underlying requirement is that people are safe, both using the ramp and navigating around it. Bylaws are in place to keep people safe, they have been developed over many years and get amended every now and then when new situations present themselves. Amending bylaws is not an easy process, it involves lots of time and collaborative effort from the governing municipal councils and committees. I can't comment on the requirement for a minimum 2.1 metre clear path, in this particular case the restaurant owners can achieve this by working with Canada Post and relocating the mailbox. The 72cm encroachment issue is a good segue into a number of other factors with this story. Our original design intent was to follow the intent of all of our other ramps that we have designed to date, this being a deployable/ temporary design. A temporary ramp need not adhere to building code as it is not a permanent structure, it is a device. As such, a deployable ramp does not need a building permit or variance. The restaurant owners agreed with this design intent and the ramp was designed and constructed as a four piece modular system with removable railings. It was communicated to the owners that each piece of the ramp would weigh between 30-40 lbs and would be best deployed by two people. Upon delivery the restaurant owners soon determined that although deployable in theory it would be inconvenient to set the ramp up and take it down at the beginning and end of each business day let alone whenever someone might need it. The restaurant owners then decided to leave the ramp out all of the time, and thus requiring it to need a temporary encroachment permit, as it encroaches 72 cm on to city property (temporary because the restaurant owners intend on working with the owner of the building to get a permanent ramp in the future, however the owner of the building does not want to allow the restaurant owners to do anything permanent... more on that later). The restaurant owners are now in the process of applying for a temporary encroachment permit but the city wants them to move the ramp immediately as they are treating the ramp like a permanent structure which is encroaching on city property and not leaving enough room between it and the mailbox. Still with me?! I spoke with Councillor Kristyn Wong Tam today and she is a huge supporter of our initiative and willing to do all she can at City Hall to figure out a solution to this situation, she is a total ally. She is going to talk with the building owner and try to convince them that installing a permanent structure is the best thing to do, more expensive but better in the long run. She also shared that this whole issue with the current ramp would go away if the business owners took advantage of the deployable nature of the ramp, set it up in the morning and removed it at night - and worked with Canada Post on moving the mailbox. She also said that she is going to try to buy some time (a couple of days) so that the restaurant owners can get the mailbox moved and avoid having the ramp taken away by the city's bylaw enforcement officers. Some of the articles and news pieces that have appeared in the media about this situation have made the city out to be bad guys but this isn't necessarily the case. As I mentioned earlier, it takes lots of time to change bylaws. My conversation with Councillor Wong Tam today confirmed that she is willing to work with us on having those bylaws reviewed in order to make it easier for businesses to become accessible, she is committed to this effort. The building owners are giving the restaurant owners a hard time as they don't want to do anything to alter the building permanently. The restaurant owners have a legitimate concern about the possibility of one of their staff hurting themselves while moving the ramp so they are keen on leaving it out all of the time. Again, I am so happy that this conversation is happening - change needs to start somewhere. It will present frustrating moments/ lessons learned like this one and no doubt more to come in the future.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Signs Restaurant Modular Ramp Masterpiece

After much toiling and fussing we managed to pull together this beauty. The ramp is a four piece modular system that can be taken apart and deployed fairly easily. The railings are removable and came together amazingly! We like to call them Braille-ings because the name of the restaurant and StopGap is written in braille along the top of one of the handrails.

We'd like to give special thanks to Signs Restaurant for the opportunity to work with them on such a groundbreaking and demanding project. We highly recommend checking out the restaurant (Yonge and Wellesley), it's an absolutely amazing dining experience as staff encourage the use of sign language in communicating. Diagrams beside items on the menu teach you the appropriate signs and the food is delicious! Plus you will get to check out the ramp while you are there. It's a guaranteed fun night out!

We'd also like to thank Scott Dunsmoor and his crew at All Weld for doing an unbelievable job with the railings. We couldn't be happier with how they turned out!

Further thanks goes to Stephen Gray and Shane MacInnes from Greening Homes for taking care of the construction of the ramp modules.

A huge thank you goes out to Trevor Little from Little Landscapes for doing the installation and setting up the railings - a very finicky job!

Lastly, would like to thank Henna Tuohimma for letting us commission her stellar measurement skills and helping out the site measurement!

Check out these photos of the creation... next project we will definitely make sure to get the stencil in the right place... ooops!




Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Charlottetown Prince Edward Island Community Ramp Project!

Today we are sending huge congratulations out to Meagan MacKenzie and her group of incredible volunteers who successfully launched their Community Ramp Project this past week in Charlottetown Prince Edward Island! We couldn't be happier to learn that the Community Ramp Project has landed on the east coast! This news makes it official that we have now gone coast-to-coast with our initiative!  Help us spread this super exciting news about Meagan's success in PEI, with hopes it will inspire others (maybe YOU...!!...) to take on their own ramp projects in their communities. Help us build on the awareness raising momentum we have gained - we are here to help every 'step' of the way!

Here is the link to the CBC news piece:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/colourful-ramps-help-make-businesses-more-accessible-1.2835326

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Terri Coles from Spacing Magazine on the The Ramp Project

Enjoy reading this article that was just published in Spacing Magazine about the potential of The Ramp Project to remove physical barriers in communities like St. John's!

Here is the link to the article:

http://spacing.ca/national/2014/11/12/updating-st-johns-accessibility/

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Hamilton Community Ramp Project

Today we'd like to congratulate Fraser O'Neill and celebrate all of his efforts in taking on a Community Ramp Project in Hamilton! Here are some pictures of Fraser and the first ramp that will no doubt create conversation, raise awareness, and help remove barriers in Hamilton!





Monday, October 20, 2014

Aaron Broverman from Now Magazine on The Community Ramp Project

Last week was a great week for media attention! The Community Ramp Project was featured on CBC News AND we had the chance to speak with Aaron Broverman from Now Magazine! Thank you Aaron for putting together such a great story, we are super grateful for the opportunity to share what we are up to these days with such a huge audience.

Here is Aaron's story:

http://www.nowtoronto.com/news/story.cfm?content=199999

Monday, October 13, 2014

CBC's Lucy Lopez on The Community Ramp Project

We had the incredibly fortunate opportunity to meet with CBC's Lucy Lopez in Kensington market on Thursday last week to talk about The Community Ramp Project and the need to design with everyone in mind in order to create a society free of physical barriers. It was great to hear David Lepofsky's (chair of the AODA alliance) point of view on the matter as well. He supports our efforts but, like us, believes that change needs to start happening from the provincial level. Here is the link to the story that aired tonight on CBC this evening:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/provincial-government-failing-to-make-toronto-barrier-free-disabilities-activist-says-1.2797319