In one day, Grace Brulotte and Scott Courtemanche hope to make every store in Fernie’s downtown core accessible and inclusive.
They are seeking donations and volunteers to build inexpensive wooden ramps for interested businesses under a new initiative called Ramp Up.
“With very little effort from the community, we can become very inclusive and that’s not just for people with disabilities, that’s for seniors with walkers, that’s for moms with chariots – it really benefits everybody,” said Brulotte.
Ramp Up was inspired by a recent trip to neighbouring town Kimberley.
Brulotte said she was surprised to find every store in the Platzl caters to customers with mobility challenges.
“We were walking around in the Platzl and just kind of noticed that all of the stores that I was interested in I could actually get into, which doesn’t happen very often for me, especially in a small town,” said Brulotte, who has a rare neuromuscular disorder called arthrogryposis and scoliosis, and uses a wheelchair.
“We took a closer look and we realized that all of the stores in the Platzl had these little wooden ramps… It was just really neat for me to be able to actually fully immerse myself in experiencing the Platzl because I could actually get into all the stores that I wanted to get into.”
Courtemanche said while the Platzl is a pedestrian-only area, it is very similar to Fernie’s downtown.
“If they can do it, why can’t we?” he said.
The pair is working with the City of Fernie on the project and investigating possible options for ramps, and locations for them to built downtown.
They already have the support of several local businesses and individuals, as well as Fernie council, which committed to lending a hand at the April 8 regular meeting.
About 20 stores along 2nd Avenue have been identified as needing a ramp, which they estimate will cost about $100 each.
“We’re going to go around to each business and we’re going to talk to them, and let them know that there’s really no monetary cost to them and, ultimately, it’s just letting people in their door,” said Courtemanche.
“I’ve heard comments like ‘many of the stores are small and cramped’, well, many of the stores in Kimberley were small and cramped too, but they still had a ramp in front of them.
“The time for excuses is long over, the time for studying the problem is long past. We can talk about it all we want but if we don’t actually put some of these discussions into action, we’re never going to solve the problem, we’re just going to continue to throw money at it.”
Ramp Up is expected to be a one-day event in late May or early June when volunteers will come together to take measurements at each store, and build the ramps. If you’re interested in being involved in Ramp Up, email email@example.com.
“We have an opportunity to set an example of what inclusive really means in Fernie,” said Courtemanche.