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New project breaking business barriers one step at a time

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Tara Jeffrey

One step is all it takes – to make a business completely inaccessible for someone with a disability.

“There are still a lot of places I’m not able to go into,” said Dan Edwards, who is helping spread the word about StopGap – a Community Ramp Project underway in Sarnia-Lambton.

“Most people know someone who has difficulty getting into a business with one step – whether it be with a walker or wheelchair – and we all deserve to be on the same playing field. We’re all equal.”

Edwards, who suffered a spinal cord injury several years ago that left him paralyzed, has joined forces with StopGap Sarnia-Lambton, a campaign aimed at bringing free access ramps to single step storefronts.

Led by coordinator Natalie Normand, the project is underway thanks to Breaking Barriers to Business, a homegrown initiative that’s helping companies and organizations meet and even exceed the requirements of Ontario’s accessibility legislation.

“This has been on my radar for a while,” said Normand, pointing to the StopGap Foundation launched in Toronto a few years ago. It has already helped remove 600 barriers in 30 Canadian communities.

She’s recruited a team of volunteers – including Edwards – who are canvassing businesses with single-step storefronts and inviting them to have a custom ramp made at little to no cost.

“This is just one more way to push us forward,” Normand said, noting Sarnia is actually a provincial leader in the push for a more accessible society.

“Having these ramps helps get more people into our local businesses, spending more money, and helping the economy.”

The group will seek donations and sponsorships – including a ‘Give $10 and Tell’ campaign – with a goal to raise enough money, about $4,500, to build 65 ramps by Sept. 30.

They’re still seeking donations from community hardware stores and volunteer labour from residents and businesses, in hopes of completing all 65 ramps in one weekend.

It’s a lofty goal, but Edwards has no doubt his community can pull it off.

“I know that Sarnia can do this sort of thing,” said the Lambton College grad and motivational speaker.

“Because I’ve seen what Sarnia can do. And I’m a testament to the possibility.”

For more about the StopGap Sarnia-Lambton project, visit www.stopgapsarnialambton.ca



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