Image description: Smiling short-haired white woman in a wheelchair at the top of a beautiful wooden ramp. The ramp is attached at the top to a flower-filled deck and at the side to a blue-and-white house.

We moved into this house in 2005—before I even started using crutches. Even then, though, I knew I would one day be using a wheelchair, which is why we chose a single-level mid-century modern in a green and peaceful neighbourhood. Instead of a ramp, we installed an electric platform lift to raise any future wheelchair about 30″ from the floor of what was the garage (and is now our exercise and laundry room) to the main floor. The lift was not cheap; even so it was less expensive than building a ramp that didn’t look rickety, nasty, and institutional.

I was happy with the lift for quite a while, because although I had started using the wheelchair, I wasn’t wholly reliant on it. Now I am. This means that if the power fails when I’m inside the house I can’t leave—no power = no wheelchair lift—and if the power fails when I’m outside the house I can’t enter.

The power in this part of Seattle goes out often when there’s a big storm. And the problem with living in a green and peaceful—peaceful because it’s less dense—neighbourhood of the city is that, well, it’s less dense, which means a power outage affects fewer people which means getting the power back online is a lower priority for this area than many others. Which means that for the last three or four years every time there’s even a rumble of thunder I got tense. Anticipating helplessness is No Fun. I decided we needed a ramp. I looked at costs: for anything that wasn’t a nasty gimcrack flimsy aluminium contraption we’d be looking at between $10k-$20k.

Which is why, when I heard about an annual project sponsored by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish counties (MBAKS), called Rampathon—in which a whole crew of volunteers come build a ramp free of charge—I applied.

That was pre-pandemic—a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I heard nothing, then forgot about it. (During the early part of the pandemic I never went anywhere anyway.)

Fast forward to August 2021 when I got a call from a nice woman who said, “Hey Nicola. You still want that ramp?”

It turned out MBAKS had to cancel the 2020 rampathon because Covid but that this year, with everyone vaccinated and the weather being unusually good it seemed like it might be doable. And sadly the first three people MBAKS had called no longer needed the ramp: they were either dead or now living in long-term care.

I’m not dead! I said. I’m right here! And yes please I so very much want that ramp!

Two weeks later Isaac Gaspar, from Gaspar’s Construction, came round to measure and talk about what kind of thing I needed, and then on Saturday 25th September (just 45 hours before we had to leave for our 9-day trip) a crew of 15 or 20 people from Gaspar’s—the whole office, basically; not just carpenters and master joiners and painters, but engineers, owners, designers, admin staff, handyfolk, project managers, and assorted friends and sweeties—showed up armed with tools, masks, team spirit, delight in helping, and hearty appetites. All it cost me and Kelley was conversation, coffee, and several platefuls of baked goods.

The sun shone, music played, people laughed and worked and stuffed themselves with treats, and eight hours later we had a ramp that is not only functional and sturdy but beautiful, gracefully designed and painted so that it looks as though it’s an integral part of the house and will last just as long. I am very, very pleased and profoundly grateful to all at Gaspar’s Construction and to the fine folks of MBAKS.

Also, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play with—I love zooming up and down it at speed, even occasionally going up backwards, just because I can.

Thank you to Gaspar’s Construction and MBAKS’ 2021 Rampathon

Image description: a beautiful wooden ramp running from a flower-filled deck down between a shed and a house, both painted indigo and white. A plaque on the end post of the ramp reads “Rampathon 2021, built by Gaspar’s Construction, presented by Master Builders’ Association of King and Snohomish Counties.”

Isn’t it beautiful?

The cats, while at first profoundly suspicious, now own the ramp which was, of course, created entirely for their convenience. Kelley, too, finds it wonderfully convenient—much easier to roll heavy suitcases up a ramp than lugging them up stairs. The ramp is an all-around win.

If you live in King or Snohomish County and you need a ramp, applications for Rampathon 2022 open in January.