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Accessibility ramp outside 476 Roncesvalles has been deemed unsafe by the city.
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Toronto just got a little less wheelchair friendly.
Stasis Preserves, an independently-owned deli and pantry on Roncesvalles Avenue, has until today to remove it’s accessibility ramp or face fines from the City. A notice of violation giving the deli five days to remove the ramp was received on March 15, Julian Katz, the deli’s owner, tells NOW.
“It seems like a step backwards,” he says.
The ramp, which was installed nearly three years ago, is encroaching on public property by extending too far onto the sidewalk, says area Councillor Gord Perks, who states in an email to NOW that because the ramp has a 90-degree turn and no handrails, it is unsafe for people in mobility devices. "There isn’t room to turn, and there are no handrails."
Perks writes that, "I am a strong advocate for making Toronto an accessible City. Unfortunately, this ramp does not provide for safe access for people using a mobility device."
He adds that, "As much as I want access in a hurry, I can’t support installing accessibility ramps that are dangerous and don’t really solve the access problem."
Katz says there has been talk of a meeting with city officials since his story has received some attention, but nothing has been scheduled yet. He says he's reached out to the City in an effort to find a compromise. But so far the City has been steadfast – it wants the ramp removed. Katz says he's been told, “‘Get rid of the ramp, otherwise we’re going to get rid of it for you and we’re going to charge you for it.’”
In 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA) became provincial law, with the goal of making Ontario barrier free by 2025. Accordingly, municipalities must strive to make public buildings fully accessible. In cases where there is a conflict between existing municipal laws on accessibility, precedence is given to “the law that gives people with disabilities the most access.”
For the city, the issue also comes down to whether or not the ramp inhibits free access to the sidewalk, but Katz says he’s never had any complaints.
The ramp was designed and built by the StopGap Foundation, the non-profit founded by Luke Anderson that makes accessibility ramps. While it has its roots in Toronto, StopGap has worked in cities and towns across Canada.
Anderson tells NOW that the ramp at Stasis Preserves is one of two multi-level ramps that he has designed. The second one he built was also targeted by city officials. Located in front of the now-closed Signs Restaurant, a restaurant staffed mostly by deaf servers, the ramp, which has handrails, was cited for encroachment infractions in late 2014. That fight with the city went on without official resolution, with the ramp sitting between in front of vacant windows at its Yonge and Wellesley location weeks after the restaurant closed in December 2016. Anderson says there were two meetings at City Hall regarding that ramp with stakeholders, "but nothing came of it."
As for the issues raised about the ramp outside Stasis, Anderson believes that there are always challenges with doing new things, he just hopes that Toronto will be able to move past them.
“It’s a shift in the way we look at our built environment and we need to put all of the issues on the table, with all of the stakeholders, because time is ticking.”
While there was a learning curve in building the Stasis ramp, Anderson says safety was the number one concern.
He echoes Katz’s sentiment that its removal would be a step in the wrong direction.
Katz, meanwhile, says the amount of pubic support he’s received has been amazing.
“It makes me feel like making the space accessible to everybody is the right thing to be doing and we should be doing more of it.”