Roncesvalles grocer ordered to remove ‘unsafe’ wheelchair ramp

By News Staff and Ginella Massa

The owner of a small specialty grocer in Roncesvalles is fighting back after the city ordered him to remove the wheelchair ramp from outside his store.

On Wednesday, an inspector dropped off a notice to Stasis Deli & Pantry saying the ramp is blocking “safe pedestrian passage” and is not safe for people using mobility devices.

When asked about the problem, Coun. Gord Perks said the ramp doesn’t have enough turning room or the necessary handrails.

“It doesn’t actually provide any additional access to the store,” he said. “All it really does is take up space on the sidewalk.

“The city has said to the owner, ‘I’m sorry. We appreciate your gesture, but this doesn’t help. We’re going to ask you to remove it.’”

Stasis owner Julian Katz — who rents the space for his store — said he would do anything he can to make the ramp conform to code. But when he spoke with Transportation Services, staff told him he wouldn’t get an easement.

“I was really surprised because we’re trying to do our part to make our city accessible and the city is saying, ‘Well, here’s your options: get rid of it or get rid of it,” Katz said.

Perks said if Katz has a plan, the city would be willing to look at it. But he suggested the location is tricky and Katz should take time to figure out how to make it properly accessible in time for 2025, Ontario’s deadline to make the province barrier-free.

“We’re struggling as a city to figure out how to meet all of these requirements, making our transit system accessible, all of our own buildings accessible,” Perks said. “It’s often not easy.”

Meanwhile, Katz said his customers rely on the ramp, installed almost three years ago by StopGap Foundation, a non-profit which has built more than 1,300 ramps for Canadian storefronts with steps.

“It really addresses the tension between city policy … and our goal as a province to be fully barrier-free by 2025,” said StopGap founder Luke Anderson. “That’s an incredible and very important goal.

“Safety definitely has to be paramount … But again we have to look at how many people have used (Stasis’s ramp) and how many people have enjoyed using it successfully and safely.”

Although Anderson admitted the ramp isn’t a “perfect solution,” he said building a ramp to code would encroach even further onto the sidewalk.

“If we want our businesses to be accessible, then there needs to be some allowances,” Katz said.

“And when I’m being told directly, ‘No, we’re not going to make an allowance for you,’ where does that leave us when we’re trying to do our part to make the city accessible?”

If the ramp is not gone by March 22, the city will remove the ramp itself, charge Katz for the visit and the cost of destroying it, and take him to court, where he could be fined up to $5,000.

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