Ramp provides great views [UPDATED]Published 10:59am Friday, October 5, 2012 Updated 11:00am Friday, October 5, 2012
At the homecoming football game tonight, most visitors will walk up into the bleachers, step over a few legs and squeeze into an open spot. For those who rely on wheelchairs to get around, however, finding a nice place to watch a football game can be more difficult.
A new business in the area is taking technology from a completely different industry to build handicap accessible ramps and seating areas, and it was high school football that started it all.
Several years ago, Lake Area Docks and Lifts owner Donavan Rasmusson was approached by a Pelican Rapids High School maintenance worker who asked for eight sections of dock. His idea was to build a handicap accessible seating area at the Pelican Rapids football field. The idea was new to Rasmusson, but the plan worked out perfectly, he said.
A couple years later, Rasmusson was working with former Otter football players Nick Risbrudt and Adam Schueller when he heard them talking about how they used to volunteer at the Veterans Home every Monday. Rasmusson was interested when he heard that some of the veterans liked to come to the games but didn’t have a good place to sit.
“They had to sit on the track,” Rasmusson said. “It was tough to get them there, and it was hard to see anything from where they were sitting.”
Rasmusson thought back to the handicap accessible seating area that was set up in Pelican Rapids and decided to call Fergus Falls Public Schools Business Manager Mark Masten to ask if he would be interested in having a better wheelchair seating area installed.
After finding the best area for the seating and getting the go-ahead, Rasmusson and his business partner Dale Graff put together a seating area that could easily be accessed by anybody. It was built with plenty of space for wheelchair seating and a bench.
“Once we had it set up, a kid came by in a wheelchair, and we asked him to try it out,” Rasmusson said. “He sat there and watched the band practice. He said, ‘I can’t wait for the track meet.’ He had never seen a track meet without looking through a fence.”
Ever since the seating was built halfway through last season, at each home football game the area is packed with veterans and other spectators in wheelchairs, Graff said.
“(The veterans) love the outings,” said Veterans Home Volunteer Service Coordinator Deanna Mounts. “They can go to the games and see the young men actually playing the game. Having good seats and being able to see the game better just adds to the experience.”
After building the seating area at the football field, Rasmusson and Graff began to see potential in using “dock technology” to build customized handicap accessible ramps and structures. The two decided to launch Affordable Access, a business they hope will take off and cut out the off season they run into in the waterfront equipment industry.
The ramps and structures made by Affordable Access are adjustable and can be moved easily, which is not the case with wood or concrete structures, Rasmusson said.
“Wherever they build a ramp out of wood or concrete, we have an application that will last forever at a lower cost,” said Graff.
The business was launched only a few months ago, and Rasmusson and Graff have installed ramps at two churches so far. Rasmusson said there is a need for something like this in the community, and this is a perfect solution.
For more information on Affordable Access, visit www.affordaccess.com.