SWM’s Murray Dunn and Denis Magotiaux, along with Murray’s son Brad (centre) show off one of the 13 ramps that they hope will make Carman’s establishments more accessible for all residents. (EMILY DISTEFANO/VALLEY LEADER)
As of this week, Carman has become the first town in Manitoba to be included in the StopGap Foundation’s ramp project.
SWM employees delivered thirteen ramps to businesses in town today, Thursday April 11.
SWM, the international flax purchasing and processing plant with locations in Winkler and just outside of Carman, partnered with the StopGap Foundation to build ramps for Carman establishments where one-step entrances prevent accessibility for those with mobility issues.
Every year, the company devotes a week toward safety, sustainability and environment. This year, Denis Magotiaux, the company’s Straw Purchase Manager, came up with the idea to give back to the community at the same time by helping to create a barrier-free world.
The StopGap Foundation started in the fall of 2011 in Toronto. The organization says building ramps for single-step storefronts began as an initiative to raise awareness about barriers in our built environment. In 2013 it was registered as a charity.
Founder Luke Anderson was injured in a mountain biking accident in 2002. He says he went “from being a physically independent person to someone who must now depend on others for help.”
The frustration of living in a world that was no longer accessible to him is what led to the StopGap Foundation, and its main focus: the Ramp Project, a volunteer-run campaign that creates awareness about barriers in the built environment.
Magotiaux first heard of the StopGap project while watching Rick Mercer. After he saw the show, he started noticing how many one-step entrances there are in his own hometown of Morden.
When he brought the idea to build ramps to SWM, Magotiaux and his co-team leader on this project, Murray Dunn, decided to focus on Carman because many of SWM’s employees live and work in the Carman-Dufferin area. Around 15 employees work at the plant southeast of Carman; around a dozen live in Winkler.
The company canvassed the town and ended up building thirteen ramps for eleven different establishments: Sears/FloralFun and Handmade Creations, Home Hardware, Prices Rite, Corner Connection, Focal Point, Lite Stop, Pembina Valley Physiotherapy, Royal Lepage, Bucksaw Timber, Retro’s Drive-Inn and Syl’s Drive-Inn.
Syl’s will be receiving one ramp for each of its washrooms, to make them accessible.
SWM donated the materials and labour to create the ramps.
The ramps are made to be temporary, easily movable and brightly-covered for easy visibility. Because many entrances in Carman are located on shifting paving stones, and all entrances are different widths, each ramp is also custom designed to fit its specific space.
Every establishment with one of these ramps will have a sticker in the window, with a phone number to call if any resident would like access to the store.
Magotiaux said any Carman businesses they missed are welcome to contact the company and they will provide a ramp for them too.
And he is hoping this example spreads to towns across Manitoba.
“Hopefully it will be a kick-off project to inspire other communities to do this also,” he said. “It just really takes one person from a community to get it started and there are lots of people who are willing to help with it.”
You can find out more about the StopGap Foundation at www.stopgap.ca.