‘Ramp Up MKE’ to make Milwaukee landmarks more accessible

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A cross-sector effort is pushing to make key landmarks in Milwaukee more accessible for individuals with disabilities.

In partnership with Milwaukee County Parks and Kelly’s Greenscapes, of Sussex, The Ability Center has launched a campaign to purchase equipment and outfit area venues with amenities that will make them more open to community members with disabilities.

The campaign, dubbed “Ramp Up MKE,” falls directly in line with TAC’s mission to give individuals with disabilities more opportunities to boost their fitness and health.

The regional nonprofit kicked off the campaign in July, first setting its sights on enhancing accessibility at Bradford Beach along Milwaukee’s lakefront. Largely through an online fundraiser, facilitated through GoFundMe, the campaign has generated close to $10,000. The campaign sits $1,500 away from a $2,500 match that would elevate the campaign total to $10,000, according to TAC founder Damian Buchman.

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Funds are first supporting the purchase of Eagle Monster Beach Chairs, beach equipment that allows people in wheelchairs to more easily make their way across sand. Each chair costs about $2,500.

To date, campaign organizers have purchased two beach chairs and are on their way to buying a third with broader hopes to purchase at least five heavy duty chairs.

It is not year clear how individuals will be able to access the chairs. Logistics are still being coordinated with potential for a renting system to be implemented.

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What is clear, however, is that steps need to be taken to more the beach more accessible to those with disabilities.

“There is no accessibility down there right now,” Buchman said.

“That’s why this is so important and valuable,” he added.

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Support for the campaign since its July launch – which coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act – has been “amazing,” according to Buchman.

“The donations have been very meaningful,” he said, noting that individual contributions have averaged $55.

A second phase of “Ramp Up MKE” will focus on installing three ramps at Bradford Beach – at the south end, north end and near the central beach house – to open up better gateways to the beach. The ramps will be permanent and will be extended with seasonal matting stretching all the way to the water, according to Buchman.

Phase two will likely be completed in two to three years, he said.

Beyond Bradford Beach, “Ramp Up MKE” will target city hotspots like Red Arrow Park, the Pettit National Ice Center and Veterans Park.

In Red Arrow Park and at the Pettit, the initiative will focus on making ice skating and ice sports more accessible to people with disabilities. Buchman hopes to be able to purchase ice sleds, $1,500 pieces of equipment that give people with disabilities an easier way to glide across the ice. And in Veterans Park, “Ramp UP MKE” will plant specialized kayaks and bikes for individuals with disabilities.

“We’ll continue to make Milwaukee a more accessible recreational place to live,” Buchman said.

“Ramp Up MKE” rallied support during a beach party at the waterfront on Aug. 22 and will continue to collect online donations at www.gofundme.com/rampupmke.

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