Inspired by the book The Ramp Man, students at Bowmore Road Public School have taken accessibility to the streets.
A group of Grade 8 students in the school’s Me to We program, which teaches community involvement and local and global citizenship, have been making their way along Queen Street East to educate shop owners and managers about accessibility.
The Ramp Man is a children’s book that tells the story of Luke Anderson, a 24 years old man whose life was changed after sustaining a spinal cord injury while mountain biking.
The book is the true story written by Bowmore Road Principal Thelma Sambrook and Anderson’s sister Logan Anderson, a Toronto District School Board teacher.
The story tells how Luke found himself in a world not well designed for someone who uses a wheelchair and how he, a trained engineer, turned his frustration into positive actions.
Luke Anderson and his co-worker and friend Michael Hopkins founded StopGap, an organization that fosters community projects that raise awareness and remove barriers. One of StopGap’s initiatives, The Community Ramp Project, organizes volunteers to design, build and install ramps on commercial strips. The bright colours of the ramps also draw attention to the fact it is difficult for people with disabilities to take part in daily life.
The students were moved to act on behalf of StopGap after Luke Anderson visited Bowmore Road P.S., near Coxwell Avenue and Gerrard Street East.
“We try to encourage our kids to get involved on the local level with something that could make a difference in their own backyards,” said Peter Gazzellone, the Me to We Teacher at Bowmore Road.
He explained the students have been doing some outreach and recently visited a number of small businesses along Queen Street East near Woodbine Avenue to talk about the importance of accessibility and the value of businesses installing portable ramps.
“We educate them about Luke and about the ramp project,” Gazzellone said.
The students’ goal is to round up at least a dozen businesses in the area that would like to have a ramp at their store.
“They really have a passion for this not because they see the difference it can make, this is something they can actually see first hand,” ,” Gazzellone said. “Hopefully we can get out and help build some of these (ramps) as well,” Gazzellone said.
Luke Anderson said he is excited to see students get inspired and take on their own projects.
“These kids are going to be tasked with solving the problems with our built environment that exist today,” Anderson said. “These kids are going to be our next generation of problem solvers.”