By Joshua Dvorkin
Campus Planning is preparing to build a brand new wheelchair ramp at the International Living and Learning Centre (ILC) because it failed to comply with the Ontario Building Code.
“I’d like that ramp blown apart,” said Patti Franklin, the assistant manager of conference services at the ILC. “I know it’s not to code.”
Franklin said there are proposed changes to address not only accessibility to the front entrance, but all the doors and entrances to the building.
As of yet, it is unclear as to when these changes will take place. Miriam Spies, a first-year Ryerson student and ILC resident, uses a power wheelchair and finds the existing ramp anything but accessible.
“I just want to get [using the ramp] over with. I just want to be at one end or the other,” she said. Born with cerebral palsy, Spies fears having an involuntary spasm and driving off the side.
At about three feet across, the ramp has no barrier or handrail to provide protection from a 10-inch drop. She is constantly hugging the wall. “It could be really dangerous if I heard a loud noise when I was on the ramp because it’s an involuntary action,” she said.
Her fear was evident as her hand and wheels simultaneously zigzagged, trying to stay as far from the edge as possible.
The ramp’s sharp incline causes the wheels of Spies’ chair to lift. As well, a tree in a cement planter sits at the top of the ramp — right where Spies has to turn to enter the building.
It has since been removed. Spies, whose chair weighs over 300 pounds, said she is afraid of what might happen if she drove off the edge. “I’ve never tipped or fallen yet, but I probably couldn’t get up,” she said.
Spies uses the ramp every Sunday when her mom drops her off for another week at school.
She also uses it every time she takes her special services dog, Lacey, to the leash-free dog park on Jarvis Street.
Uncomfortable with using the ramp in the current weather conditions, she makes a five minute detour instead using the rear entrance of the building.
Devon Stoyka, another Ryerson student and wheelchair user, also uses the front entrance ramp every time her mom drops her off. “I always think I’m going to fall off the edge,” Stoyka said. “There’s not enough width and if you’re carrying stuff, it’s crazy.”
Stoyka isn’t just concerned about those in the disabled community.
“I don’t think the ramp is of any use to anyone. Even if you have a trolley and you have to use that poor excuse for an access point, I mean, good luck.”
In September 2006, campus planning built an extension to the ramp in an attempt to improve accessibility to the front of the ILC.
The repairs proved to be unsafe as cars were driving and even parking on the ramp.