Walking around Hintonburg in November, you may have noticed an addition to many of the shops’ entrances: bright green, red, or orange wheelchair ramps. As someone who lives, works, shops, and eats in the area, this was a noticeable difference – not many businesses in Wellington West had been wheelchair accessible prior to this neon takeover.
Since 2011, StopGap, a charitable organization, has been building ramps for single-step storefronts as an initiative to raise awareness about barriers in our man-made environment. Their first project was in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood where they used donated materials from local hardware stores and volunteer labour to construct 12 deployable ramps for free. After the project’s success in Toronto, it became clear to StopGap that this was a service that could help people elsewhere — including Ottawa.
The Wellington West BIA and StopGap surveyed businesses in the area to study the need for wheelchair accessibility. Interested shops were able to sign up for a ramp, which was then built at this year’s Tastes of Wellington West in Somerset Square by the StopGap Ottawa volunteer team, with tools and extra hands from the Ottawa Tool Library (started by another great initiative, Ottawa’s Impact HUB).
The businesses that now have StopGap accessibility ramps are: Wellington Gastropub, Sushi Umi, House of Barons, Twiss & Weber, The Cake Shop, Wellington Sandwiches, ZaZaZa Pizza, Hintonburger, Simply Raw, Maker House Co., and Smoke Signalz.
As for those bright colours? — it helps draw attention to the project.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) has a projection date of 2025 for all of Ontario to be accessible. The StopGap Foundation hopes that through these kinds of community initiatives, they can get business done sooner.
Inspired? Donate, volunteer, or visit the website to see how else you can become involved.