Wheelchair ramp at woman's home must come down, city officials say

- The Texas Ramp Project has built tens of thousands of ramps across the state that help people get in and out of their homes.

But the project is running into some red tape in one North Texas city where some residents are already enjoying their freedom thanks to the ramps.

A Duncanville family appears to be caught in the crosshairs of good intentions. A non-profit built them a wheelchair ramp at no expense but without a permit.

Nancy Miner had a wheelchair ramp installed in front of her Duncanville home.

“It felt freeing to be able to go down the ramp and out of the house,” she said. “Otherwise, I’m kind of a prisoner in there.”

“It was a godsend,” said Lynne Miner, Nancy’s daughter. “We had no way of getting her to a doctor’s appointment anymore because she began to get where she couldn’t walk.”

Gary Stopani built Miner’s ramp free of charge several months ago as part of a nonprofit group called the Texas Ramp Project. However, it was built without a permit. It’s something the city of Duncanville says it requires for safety purposes.

The Miners say they were told by a city worker the ramp was unsafe and did not meet city requirements.

“Either, they’re going to start fining us or we need to tear it down,” Lynne said. “I don’t know how much the fine would be, but I know I can’t afford anything. That’s how we had volunteers come out and put up the ramp.”

“In Dallas County alone, we’ve built almost 5,000 ramps,” Stopani said. “We’ve built over 15,000 statewide since 2006 and we have yet to have a ramp fail due to safety.”

The city says other ramps that Stopani’s organization built in Duncanville are in violation as well. He also builds ramps in Dallas without a permit and says he’s never had any problems.

Stopani was recently in Oak Cliff working on a project. Neighbor Linda Willis recognized Stopani.

“He’s the same one that did the ramp for my husband when he was sick so he could get in and out of the house,” Willis said. “It’s great! People helping people. Truly, there is yet people loving people.”

It’s a feeling Nancy knows all too well.

“I’m a happy free spirit and I can do anything with a little help of a ramp,” she said. “I can’t imagine my life without it. I can’t. I need it.”

City manager Kevin Hugman released the following statement: “While we applaud the efforts of the Texas Ramp Project to build wheelchair ramps for those who need them, the city also has a responsibility to our citizens to ensure the ramps meet safety standards and the only way we can do that is through the permitting and inspection process.”

Stopani says he’s willing to work with the city.

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