Another Story Bookshop is known as the little local bookstore with a focus on equity and social justice, so having the store be accessible is of particular importance to owner Sheila Koffman.
“We have a whole section of books about kids with different abilities,” Koffman said. “The idea of having a ramp to make it accessible was really important to us.”
But, about a month ago the lime green ramp, provided to them by an organization called StopGap, disappeared one mid-weeknight from their location at 315 Roncesvalles Ave.
Since then Koffman said she has thought about her missing ramp and why someone may have wanted it.
“It was really colourful and small and long,” she said. “The best I can figure is that someone thought of it as a game thing... I don’t think there was any malicious intent. It was really narrow and lime green, so I think it just caught someone’s fancy.”
Colourful StopGap ramps can be seen complementing shop fronts along Roncesvalles. They have been making the stores more accessible since the fall of last year. During the 2012 Polish Festival on Roncesvalles Avenue, StopGap, using material donations from community hardware stores and volunteer labour, facilitated the construction, painting and delivery of 43 ramps through a program called The Community Ramp Project.
According to StopGap’s creator, Luke Anderson, it is a program that aims to create a world where every person can access every space through fun and engaging community projects that raise awareness and remove barriers.
“A lot of people told us they really loved having the ramp there,” Koffman said. “People who come in with strollers, certainly delivery people have said that and we do get some customers in wheelchairs who have said it is really helpful. When the ramp was stolen the staff at Another Story Bookshop decided to use the incident as a learning tool.
“We are actually looking to set up an event with Luke in the store,” Koffman said.
Coincidently, there was a book called The Ramp Man produced about Anderson last spring by his sister Logan Anderson, a teacher at Summit Heights Public School in North York, in collaboration with the school’s Grade Six students and Principal Thelma Sambrook.
Inspired by a presentation Luke gave at their school, Grade 6 students helped illustrate the book while Logan and Thelma collaborated on the story.
“We do equity nights with teachers so we are looking to do an event where teachers can come in and talk to (Anderson) about his experiences,” said Koffman, who thinks it is really important to emphasize the need for the ramps and increased accessibility across the city.
“This city needs to be more accessible, we have to look at accessibility on our public transportation, in all our buildings,” she said.
Anderson has been mobile with the assistance of a wheelchair since sustaining a spinal cord injury while mountain biking when he was 24 years old.
Koffman said they will get a new ramp before the educational event and she is looking to purchase one. She intends to bring it in at night.
“If somebody wanted to bring it back to us that would be great,” she said, adding she suspects it is unlikely. “But if not we are going to buy one.”
Koffman said they might also plan a community night where people can come in and meet Anderson and hear where the ramp project came from.
The missing ramp, Anderson said, has allowed a conversation to begin about other StopGap initiatives.
“It could have been a variety store that it was stolen from and this opportunity wouldn’t have presented itself,” Anderson said. “But it was a bookstore and one that I have come to learn is they are the bookstore people go to to search for publications on empathy.”
Anderson said StopGap is working on a new ramp for Another Story, and they are working on settling a date for him to come and speak at the shop.