After sustaining a spinal cord injury in 2002, Luke Anderson was all of a sudden introduced to a world that's not well suited for a wheelchair user. His frustration encountering access barriers led him to found the StopGap Foundation, which raises awareness about the importance of a barrier free and inclusive society. StopGap is helping different community leaders across Canada adopt their own Community Ramp Project and they recently developed a school program to engage students in StopGap's awareness raising initiative. Luke is a licensed professional engineer, enjoys speaking as a volunteer ambassador on behalf of the Rick Hansen Foundation, and was awarded the 2016 Jane Jacobs Prize.
It’s 2002, the world’s first camera phone had hit the market and Nickelback’s How You Remind Me (shiver) is getting major airplay on the radio. A recent university graduate named Luke Anderson has followed his dream west, and is living in the mountains of British Columbia. He’s putting his engineering degree to good use working as a homebuilder, and playing hard with other like-minded mountain biking enthusiasts. One beautiful autumn day, Luke and his good friend Johnny were riding down a tricky trail they had heard other mountain bikers raving about. They came upon a 25ft gap which Johnny cleared without a problem. Luke was determined to give it a try as well. He made sure he was in the right gear, gripped the handlebars tightly, pushed down hard on the pedals, left the takeoff platform, and his life as he knew it.
In that moment Luke went from being a physically independent person to someone who must now depend on others for help. In that instant he entered a world that was no longer completely accessible to him. This frustration is what led to the StopGap Foundation. StopGap is building brightly coloured single-step ramps to not only increase accessibility, but also to start a conversation about the importance of an inclusive society. The project has had early success in Toronto, and is building grassroots support in communities from coast to coast.
Luke speaks on behalf of the Rick Hansen Foundation, and his work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, CityTV, Global News, CBC, Now Magazine, CTV’s Canada AM. The Agenda with Steve Paikin and many other outlets across the country since the first ramp project just a few years ago. He is currently working with schools boards to involve students in StopGap, and was awarded the 2016 Jane Jacobs Prize.
An amazing thing happens when these brightly coloured ramps show up in a neighbourhood; people don’t just notice the ramps, they notice who doesn’t have a ramp. They start asking why, and often ask themselves if they are part of the solution, or contributing to the problem.
As both a senior manager and someone with lived experience of disability, I cannot recommend Luke Anderson enough as a speaker. Luke's engaging style, personal story and in depth knowledge around inclusive design and accessibility make his message a truly powerful one. Any organization would be lucky to share in Luke Anderson’s wisdom and approach to transforming the way that we think about accessibility. Thank you, Luke!
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