How this portable wooden ramp is changing wheelchair accessibility
You don’t really know the meaning of accessibility unless you use a wheelchair or hang out with someone who does. I only started to understand one fall evening while wandering the streets of downtown Montreal with my friend André, in search of a bar or restaurant where he could get his wheelchair through the door.
It took us 45 minutes to find a place, by which time I was feeling quite indignant. How could so many places not bother to make the small ascent to their threshold – usually just one step up from the sidewalk – manageable for people with disabilities? André seemed to take the hassle more calmly, because he had been dealing with it for years.
Man with disability building free wheelchair ramps for Montreal businesses
The wants and needs of people in wheelchairs are pretty much the same as anyone else, Omar Lachheb notes.
“They want to go to restaurants, they want to have fun, they want to go with their friends and access stores and bars,” said the 37-year-old who has been in a wheelchair since the age of 16.
The problem is that at the majority of businesses, bars and restaurants in Montreal, easy access is often hampered by one step a few centimetres high, making it either impossible to enter, or requiring the aid of a store employee or a friend and feeling like a burden, or an outsider.
Which is why Lachheb is kick-starting a non-profit organization dubbed J’accède (I access) that will donate lightweight one-step ramps to businesses in Montreal. Four businesses are already on board, including the iconic St-Viateur Bagel in the Plateau and Gabytech computer services store on Parc Ave. Both have steps into their stores roughly 15 centimetres high.
Ça vaut le détour
Jeudi 8 octobre 2015 – Inspiré d’un modèle torontois, J’accède Québec promeut l’accessibilité par le biais de rampes amovibles. Celles-ci donnent l’occasion à plus de commerces d’offrir une entrée aux personnes à mobilité réduite : une solution imparfaite à un problème urgent, de l’aveu de son fondateur Omar Lachheb.
La rondelle sonore des Hiboux de Montréal est une innovation qui permet aux personnes avec une déficience visuelle de pratiquer le hockey, une invention du Département d’informatique de l’Université du Québec à Montréal, menée par le professeur Frédéric Nabki. Une technologie qui suit une trajectoire intéressante et qui pourrait mener jusqu’aux Jeux paralympiques.