The StopGap Foundation: How a little wooden ramp reshaped an Ontario city

StopGap Foundation was registered as a charitable organization in October 2013, but its roots date back to the fall of 2011. It began as an initiative to raise awareness about barriers in our built environment.

Their first project was the launch of its first Community Ramp Project in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood. Through material donations from local hardware stores, and volunteer labour from inspired community residents, the Community Ramp Project provided a free ramp to 12 businesses with a single stepped entry. The lightweight plywood ramps were brightly coloured to attract attention and were stenciled with the StopGap website address — StopGap.ca — in order to direct those interested to learn all about the project.

Stopgap were part of our 2015 Agents of Change: City Builders cohort. Four years later, and one of their many successes has been transforming downtown Kenora.

A recent article on TVO.org tells the story:

To date, Anderson has worked with more than 50 communities, including Bancroft, Belleville, Port Hope, and Stratford.

“Smaller towns are more nimble,” says Anderson. “The awareness-raising journey is much shorter than it is in a larger centre.”

A local StopGap chapter was established in Kenora to install a ramp in front of now-councillor Mort Goss’s Second Street South shop, Sure Thing, in the summer of 2014.

The ramp had such an impact that, when it came time to spruce up Second Street the next year as part of an ongoing downtown-revitalization process, the city decided to make the accessibility it provided part of its built infrastructure by raising the sidewalks. Anderson says that he’s seen StopGap lead to policy changes in various municipalities but that Kenora is the first to have made this kind of structural change.

“It’s a big win,” says Anderson. “That’s the ultimate dream — to inspire that type of change.”

Read the full piece here.

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