Movers & Shakers

Colourful Lego ramps for wheelchair users

Header Rita Ebel building the Lego ramps
Rita Ebel trick water skiing
Rita Ebel the wheelchair athlete, was the European vice-champion in trick water-skiing. © Rita Ebel

According to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany in 2020, 7.9 million people with a severe disability live in Germany. 1.4 million people are dependent on wheelchairs. When it comes to barrier-free mobility, Germany is on the level of a developing country, as Rita Ebel continues to experience. “A single step in front of a store or a restaurant can turn into an insurmountable obstacle when one wants to gain access alone”, as she shares her experience. One day, she happened to hear about Corinna Huber from Bielefeld, who is also dependent on a wheelchair and came up with a wonderful, yet simple idea. Rita Ebel has adopted it and developed it further: She builds access ramps for wheelchair users out of discarded Lego bricks. Nobody would ever think of calling the active Rita Ebel “the Lego granny” – other than herself (and her granddaughter). The diverse and colourful results of her work can be admired on Instagram

The colorful Lego ramps help wheelchair users like Rita Ebel enter stores
Rita Ebel makes stores barrier-free with colourful Lego ramps. © Rita Ebel

Building instructions translated into many languages and shipped worldwide

Before her accident, Rita Ebel was the managing director of a building company. She can organise, knuckle down and is quite the handywoman. In 2019, she began building ramps and is currently working on the 80th. According to her calculations, she has used 1.8 tonnes of Lego bricks, or Duplo bricks for the larger ramps. The building material for the ramps is rather simple: She needs baseplates measuring 25.5 cm, two to four knob-wide baseplates and simple basic bricks. There are single track and two-track ramps; other necessary materials are a cartridge gun and glue, a hammer, a precision knife and a measuring stick. A granulate mat is glued onto the base of all ramps (to make them slip-resistant). Then, you get to building: “The first row consists of thin bricks – four rows deep; the second row is also made up of thin bricks – two rows deep – offset to the lower bricks; next up is a row of normal basic bricks – three rows deep” – that is what it says in her building instructions, which she has had translated into many different languages and sent across the world already more than 600 times. The building of ramps has become a popular movement for wheelchair users and family, friends and relatives. 

Building time is on the weekend: each ramp takes up to 50 hours

“I work on the computer several hours every day: I answer requests, organise deliveries, send building instructions, stay in contact with other Lego ramp builders; the PR work takes up more and more time.” There have been reports about the Lego granny in over 50 countries across all continents. “Building time is on the weekend, my husband and friends help out”, she tells us about her exciting life as a pensioner.

Members of the team of Lego ramp builders
Open Gallery
The Lego ramp builder team, they all support Rita Ebel

The materials Rita uses are all exclusively from donations made by the community. “We don’t receive any support from Lego“, she says. Now, she is supported by the local workers' welfare association, which spreads information and functions as an official donations office. “This means that we can, if necessary, buy some material or a round of pizza for all the helpers”, says Rita Ebel.

Ramp building movement continues to grow

What used to be a few solo practitioners has turned into a national movement: “Corinna Huber is well on the way to becoming the ramp queen of Bielefeld”, as the Westfalenrundschau news programme reported. “Bricks over steps” was the title of an article by Süddeutsche Zeitung on the story of Munich’s Christina Peter. She also builds colourful ramps out of Lego bricks and gives them to stores to make the city a bit more barrier-free. For Ebel, her fellow campaigners are a blessing. “I receive requests from all over the place”, she says, “and am happy when I can refer to local colleagues.”

The ramps may not receive a “certified approval as an aid ramp suitable for the disabled” since they do not comply with official building regulations, but they do have quite a few benefits. They are slip-resistant (also for pedestrians), water drains off of them, they are pretty, colourful and accepted. Some of them display company or association logos, others advertise the store they make accessible, for example with a mobile phone or eyeglass frame motif.

Info

Is your store barrier-free?

Clear the way for people with wheelchairs or strollers. Even a single step can turn into an insurmountable obstacle. A Lego ramp is a mobile solution that will make everyone feel welcome in your store.

More info on the Lego ramps 
 

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