Fueled by the desire to make Hanau more accessible for those in wheelchairs, like herself, Rita Ebel set her eyes on creating colorful ramps out of Lego after drawing inspiration from Corinna Huber from Bielefeld, who also built ramps out of Lego bricks. Ebel is a 65-year-old German lady, more fondly known as “Lego Grandma”. She has been building these colorful ramps since 2019 and her works can be found on Instagram (@die_lego_oma), where she has a keen following of 10,500 followers.
A car accident 28 years ago, left Ebel wheelchair-bound after she suffered incomplete paralysis. So, as a wheelchair user herself, she understands firsthand how difficult it is for wheelchair users to enter shops with steps. These spaces are typically out-of-bounds to them unless they call for help to enter and exit.
Realizing that this is a problem faced by many of her friends in similar situations, this pushed Ebel to further
develop Huber’s idea to make her hometown, Hanau, a barrier-free place for all. In doing so, the ramps also ensure that the dignity of wheelchair users are maintained as they can continue to move around independently.
Today, there are 88 ramps built by Ebel and her team all over Germany. Ramps 89 and 90 are currently in the works, with another 6 ramps waitlisted. These ramps are entirely made up of Lego bricks donated by the public and repurposed for the good of the community. “We only build from used bricks donated by the whole population and these are often bricks that lie in the basement or in the attic that might just be thrown away at some point,” said Ebel. In the early days, Ebel had to personally approach the stores for them to accept the proposal to build the ramps for them, to make them more accessible to those who are wheelchair-bound. Thankfully, after the first installation, other companies started approaching her directly. As this initiative is fully reliant on the public’s donation of Lego bricks, the ramps are only made for public use and not for sale to private individuals. Exceptions are however, made for children who are wheelchair dependent.
It is highly labor-intensive to make these ramps and every ramp takes anywhere between 10 to 50 hours, depending on the intricacy of the designs and step heights. Even so, Ebel and her team are still heavily dependent on the public’s donation of Lego bricks for the construction of such ramps. However, Ebel remains unfazed as she embarks on the journey to make Hanau more accessible, one ramp at a time.
To support her cause and leave your mark on future ramps, you can do your part and contribute by donating Lego bricks. For enquiries on the donation address, building instructions and building enquiries, she can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and her social media channels on Facebook (Lego grandma Rita Ebel) and Instagram (@die_lego_oma).
Rita Ebel’s works are currently under the sponsorship of AWO Hanau eV. On top of the incredible work she is doing with the ramps, she also actively works with Hanau Environmental Center with the objective of changing society’s perspectives about people with disabilities. She offers wheelchair tours in her city to the able-bodied community where participants (via wheelchair) must complete everyday tasks like grocery shopping and taking the bus. When participants are being placed in the shoes of wheelchair users and complete what they typically deem as menial tasks, it is Ebel’s hope that they experience and understand where the barriers lie and realize how the public reacts to wheelchair users.