Here's an article that was recently featured in the Cranbrook Daily Townsman:
September 14, 2012
It was a simple shopping trip that inspired Lori Montcalm to take action.
Lori was forced to wait outside earlier this summer as her visiting family toured local shops. They rushed through so they didn't leave her waiting outside on the sidewalk.
Being in a wheelchair in Cranbrook, Lori said it's a familiar situation for her, and many don't realize a lack of accessibility for disabled people extends way beyond the person in the chair.
"Living in a wheelchair is an exercise in isolation and frustration," she said. "It's not just me, it's my friends and family."
So when a friend sent her the link to a project called Stop Gap that offers to build free ramps for businesses, Lori couldn't wait to get it started here in Cranbrook to eliminate some of those barriers for people just like her.
"There are places here in Cranbrook that I can't get into so I decided to pick up the torch," she said.
With the help of her son, Lori has been driving her motorized wheelchair around to businesses to deliver a flier offering a free ramp courtesy of Home Depot. Her delivery method proves her point: Lori will roll up to a business, and if she can't get in, she knocks until someone comes to help.
"I can't necessarily get into the businesses that need one," Lori said.
For those in a wheelchair, that situation is all too familiar. Lori remembers having to go to the police station after an accident near her home. She was unable to get up the stairs, and instead had to drive around the building until she found a door. Then, she pounded on it until someone noticed her.
Lori said to her knowledge there is no legislation that makes a business be accessible for disabled people. In the U.S., legislation was passed in 1985 that made all businesses and buildings have ramps and handicap-accessible washrooms. She wonders why the same hasn't happened here.
"It's so bizarre to me that Canada is 35 years behind," she said.
One of the challenges Lori sees is that many of her friends' homes are not easy to access either, which means they opt to go out to restaurants. That in itself can be frustrating for Lori, as she has to make sure the establishment has a ramp and proper washroom facilities.
Home Depot was eager to get on board when Lori brought Stop Gap to their attention. The business participates in a number of community projects each year, and this one fit right in with their mandate.
"They decided that this sounded like a worthwhile cause," Lori said.
Right now, Lori is delivering her fliers around town. A total of 12 temporary ramps will be built, and if a business expresses an interest, Lori will send someone out to get measurements. Home Depot will then construct the ramps and they will be delivered in the last week of September. The ramps will be brightly coloured to draw attention to what they represent.
Already three local businesses have signed up to have a ramp installed. Lori said they are designed to be temporary and moveable so that a disabled person can call ahead to have it set up, or they can simply knock and an employee can bring the ramp out and set it up.
"This is a great opportunity for local businesses to indicate they are open for business to all," Lori said.
She believes it's a win-win situation: businesses will open up to more customers, and herself and others with mobility issues will have more places they can go and feel included.
"Just being able to go out with your friends just opens the world," Lori said.
Stop Gap was started in Ontario by two friends that are trained engineers. After one was injured in an accident and confined to a wheelchair, they tried to continue life as normal as possible. Activities like going for a beer after work were difficult, because many places were not accessible. They decided to change that, and have launched a campaign to build ramps for businesses. For more information on their cause, visit stopgap.ca.
To enquire about a ramp in Cranbrook, call Lori at (250) 489-3739 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. only 12 ramps will be built this year and they are on a first come first served basis.