Stopgap bridges the gap
CECILIA NASMITH Northumberland Today (From left) The Social general manager Jeff Bray and owner Julie Mavis are pleased with the accessibility afforded by the surprisingly inexpensive Stopgap at their front door, as are Port Hope accessibility advisory committee buildings subcommittee head Peter Hunt and committee member Zac Andrus.
For those businesses struggling with making their premises accessible, the Stopgap might be just the answer.
This simple wooden wedge of precise design and dimensions is the initiative of two Toronto men, who were alarmed at how their wheelchairs kept them from so many public and retail locations in the city. They responded by designing the Stopgap ramp, which they make available to all through instructions on their website and the use of their logo.
The Port Hope accessibility committee has been working to make it available to stores and businesses in the downtown even since they learned that the Ontario ParaSport Games were coming to Northumberland County.
Committee chair Selena Forsyth said it became quite a team effort, starting when the Port Hope and District Chamber of Commerce got on the bandwagon, helping to recruit volunteers to construct the ramps at cost.
The Port Hope Young Professionals stepped in to do the building and painting. And the Rotary Club of Port Hope stepped up to foot the tab of about $28 per ramp.
A number of businesses accepted the offer of a Stopgap — not as many as they would have liked, Forsyth said, “but it's a start.”
And a number of the ramps remain for any business that would care to get one, since they made more than they needed.
In Port Hope's beautiful heritage downtown, Forsyth said, almost every store has one step up from the street. For these, the Stopgap could be an easy solution.
Some stores do have two steps up, and the Stopgap does have a two-step model — though there is a longer length to offset the increased height (perhaps making it unsuitable for some locations), and it is more expensive to make.
The Railside has solved the two-step problem on its own, with an interior folding metal ramp to take customers up the two steps between their fast-food operation and their beautiful dining room. It was a $2,000 investment, and it works because they have a long hall leading up to the steps to accommodate the ramp.
Forsyth admits to being disappointed at the number of businesses that have taken them up on their offer of a Stopgap, but heartened at the reaction she gets from businesses that use them.
Julie Mavis stepped up to take a Stopgap for each of her two businesses, and she is pleased with the accessibility it provides to her businesses.
“We had just opened The Social in May — what an opportunity for us to be part of that program and be able to invite more people into the restaurant,” Mavis said.
“And Cats Media took advantage of that as well.”
They have an incorporated carry handle so she can easily put them in place when they're needed, or tuck them away in a hallway beside the stairs when they're not.
Because they're stored indoors, they're always in good condition and free of such weather detritus as slush and ice.
“It's nice to have the downtown shops accessible,” committee member Zac Andrus said, after trying out Mavis's Stopgap in his walker.
Of course, Forsyth said, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act mandates full accessibility for all by 2025. But this is proving a special challenge for heritage downtowns like Port Hope, Perth and Paris, with their Victorian buildings, narrow sidewalks — and the complete absence of funding for compliance.
Many businesses have chosen to postpone heritage renovations to a future day when they renovate. But solutions are not altogether out of the question, Forsyth said.
“There's always a creative solution — it's just a matter of desire,” Mavis said.
“It's about creative thinking. There's always a solution.”