German grandma builds wheelchair ramps from Lego

Rita Ebel, nicknamed "Lego grandma", tests one of her wheelchair ramps built from donated Lego bricks in Hanau, Germany, February 17, 2020. Picture taken February 17, 2020. Ebel started to build the ramps almost one year ago to raise awareness for handicapped people in her hometown of Hanau. Meanwhile, dozens of stores use the ramps to ease entry for wheelchair users. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

HANAU, Germany (Reuters) – Faced with rows of inaccessible shops and cafes, wheelchair user Rita Ebel has devised a low-tech high-fun solution – ramps made of Lego.

“For me it is just about trying to sensitise the world a little bit to barrier-free travel,” Ebel said in the German town of Hanau. She has been using a wheelchair since she was involved in a car accident 25 years ago.

“Anyone could suddenly end up in a situation that puts them in a wheelchair, like it did me,” the 62-year-old grandmother said.

Helped by her husband, Ebel often spends two to three hours a day building the made-to-order ramps which contain several hundred of the small plastic bricks stuck together with up to eight tubes of glue.

The bright colours stand out in town centres, she said.

“Nobody just walks past a Lego ramp without taking a look. Whether it’s children who try to get the bricks out or adults who take out their mobile phones to take pictures,” she said.

Local businesses are also enthusiastic.

“It’s a brilliant idea,” said Malika El Harti, who got a ramp for her hair salon. “Everyone who walks past is happy about the ramps. Finally you can see from afar that you can get in here without any problems.”

Reliant on donations, the biggest challenge is getting hold of bricks, said Eber, as many families can’t bear to part with them.

The idea is even catching on abroad. Eber, who also has a part-time job, has sent ramp building instructions to Austria and Switzerland and there is interest from Spain and a school in the United States.

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