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Portable ramps a win for accessibility advocates

Above watch: For people with disabilities, accessing businesses in older parts of Halifax can be difficult, but now a new initiative is helping businesses become more accessible. Marieke Walsh reports.

HALIFAX – A coalition of groups is making it easier for people with physical disabilities to access businesses in Halifax.

The mayor’s office, Parker Street Skills Development Centre, the Stop Gap Foundation and business improvement commissions are coming together to make portable ramps available for businesses where one step is the only barrier between the sidewalk and the door.

Students in Parker Street’s Carpentry Assistant Program make the bright blue ramps free of charge, however, businesses are encouraged to make a $25 donation to the program. Based on the Stop Gap Foundation model in Ontario, Mayor Mike Savage’s office asked staff at Parker Street if they would partner on the community ramp project.

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Since the fall the Carpentry Assistant Program has made about 20 ramps, ten of which have already been distributed to businesses in Halifax, said Parker Street Skills Development Officer Rob MacNeish. Students in the program are either under-employed or unemployed and build the ramps as part of a three month skills program.

“We’re going to (build) as many as we can, so as many businesses want them we want to build them,” said MacNeish.

Gerry Post, a wheel chair bound accessibility advocate, said the ramps mean instead of rolling by most stores on Barrington Street he will now be able to access the stores like everyone else. Businesses that have the ramps stored inside will have stickers on their door or window, indicating they have a ramp inside. The sticker will have the business’ phone number written on it so when someone who needs a ramp comes to the door, they can call and staff will bring out the ramp.

“City council adopted a policy for us to become one of the top cities in Canada to become accessible,” said Post. “And this is a start, this is a great start.”

While not a permanent fix to Halifax’s accessibility challenges, Tova Sherman, the CEO for reachAbility, said it shows Halifax is on the right track. “Any time everybody can access a place it’s a positive,” said Sherman. “Although those ramps can’t be permanent, which would be ideal… at least we’re seeing responses to the fact that there are people in this community who are unable to go to those businesses due to the entrance ways.”

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