Exciting times in awareness raising land! There is SO much buzz going on right now about the initiative and the need for increased accessibility in our communities.
Along with the newspaper articles that have been published about the city’s orders to remove the Signs Restaurant ramp I just wanted to add some updates and view our opinion on the situation in greater depth in an effort to create further clarity. All of the latest articles and news pieces can be found in the media section of our website.
This is a great conversation everyone, it’s this type of discourse that we were intending on creating when we started the initiative three years ago. This topic has many facets, from human rights to design issues. The underlying requirement is that people are safe, both using the ramp and navigating around it. Bylaws are in place to keep people safe, they have been developed over many years and get amended every now and then when new situations present themselves. Amending bylaws is not an easy process, it involves lots of time and collaborative effort from the governing municipal councils and committees. I can’t comment on the requirement for a minimum 2.1 metre clear path, in this particular case the restaurant owners can achieve this by working with Canada Post and relocating the mailbox. The 72cm encroachment issue is a good segue into a number of other factors with this story. Our original design intent was to follow the intent of all of our other ramps that we have designed to date, this being a deployable/ temporary design. A temporary ramp need not adhere to building code as it is not a permanent structure, it is a device. As such, a deployable ramp does not need a building permit or variance. The restaurant owners agreed with this design intent and the ramp was designed and constructed as a four piece modular system with removable railings. It was communicated to the owners that each piece of the ramp would weigh between 30-40 lbs and would be best deployed by two people. Upon delivery the restaurant owners soon determined that although deployable in theory it would be inconvenient to set the ramp up and take it down at the beginning and end of each business day let alone whenever someone might need it. The restaurant owners then decided to leave the ramp out all of the time, and thus requiring it to need a temporary encroachment permit, as it encroaches 72 cm on to city property (temporary because the restaurant owners intend on working with the owner of the building to get a permanent ramp in the future, however the owner of the building does not want to allow the restaurant owners to do anything permanent… more on that later). The restaurant owners are now in the process of applying for a temporary encroachment permit but the city wants them to move the ramp immediately as they are treating the ramp like a permanent structure which is encroaching on city property and not leaving enough room between it and the mailbox. Still with me?! I spoke with Councillor Kristyn Wong Tam today and she is a huge supporter of our initiative and willing to do all she can at City Hall to figure out a solution to this situation, she is a total ally. She is going to talk with the building owner and try to convince them that installing a permanent structure is the best thing to do, more expensive but better in the long run. She also shared that this whole issue with the current ramp would go away if the business owners took advantage of the deployable nature of the ramp, set it up in the morning and removed it at night – and worked with Canada Post on moving the mailbox. She also said that she is going to try to buy some time (a couple of days) so that the restaurant owners can get the mailbox moved and avoid having the ramp taken away by the city’s bylaw enforcement officers. Some of the articles and news pieces that have appeared in the media about this situation have made the city out to be bad guys but this isn’t necessarily the case. As I mentioned earlier, it takes lots of time to change bylaws. My conversation with Councillor Wong Tam today confirmed that she is willing to work with us on having those bylaws reviewed in order to make it easier for businesses to become accessible, she is committed to this effort. The building owners are giving the restaurant owners a hard time as they don’t want to do anything to alter the building permanently. The restaurant owners have a legitimate concern about the possibility of one of their staff hurting themselves while moving the ramp so they are keen on leaving it out all of the time. Again, I am so happy that this conversation is happening – change needs to start somewhere. It will present frustrating moments/ lessons learned like this one and no doubt more to come in the future.