Andy Underwood has been a Dr. Cobbler customer for years, but this afternoon he was inside for the very first time.
Underwood was the first person to use the portable StopGap ramp at the downtown Owen Sound store to launch a small project that will make a big difference.

Chris Farrell, chair of Owen Sound's Accessibility Advisory Committee, brought the StopGap project to the group after doing some research on-line. The portable ramps were designed by an engineer, himself a wheel-chair user, to solve a common problem and are now in over 50 communities in Canada. The bright green ramp was built for Dr. Cobbler by grade 11 and 12 construction students at Owen Sound District High School (OSDSS) from materials – wood, hardware, rope and non-slip paint - provided free of charge by Home Depot. Both the students and the hardware company have committed to supplying as many more as are needed at no charge to businesses.

When Underwood first arrived in town in 1999 he came downtown to get a key cut for his new home, but that one step into Fulford's Hardware was a barrier. "But this is Owen Sound," he said, so he went across the street to Adair's V & S Department Store. "They didn't have a key cutting machine, but the woman behind the counter said 'Just give me the key' and she ran across and had it cut."

The Big Dig project that rebuilt the 2nd Avenue East infrastructure in 2000 also made a "world of difference" for accessibility, Underwood said. Many businesses took that opportunity to renovate their front entrances. But there are still about twenty stores in downtown Owen Sound that have that one step that makes it impossible for some of our neighbours to visit.

As for Dr. Cobbler, when owners Ron and Camille Cole heard about the project they jumped at the idea. Up until now, when Andy Underwood came to the store, he would knock on the window and Ron would meet him and they would transact their business just outside the front door. Today Underwood was in the store for the first time, browsing with the other customers.

The ramps are not a permanent installation, so they won't be a trip hazard on the sidewalk. There will be a sign in the business window with a phone number, and those who need the StopGap can call on their cell and the ramp will be provided.

Underwood and the committee hope the StopGap ramps will draw attention to accessibility issues, and encourage businesses to seek permanent solutions in future renovations.

So far Heartwood Home, Sweet Pea Natural Baby and Awesome Blossoms are in line for the next three ramps.

If your business is interested in making your entrance more accessible, contact Christine Farrell at [email protected], call her at 519-871-8003, or visit the group's Facebook page.




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