Creative ramp-up

Towards the end of December 2021, the Tamil Nadu Government was in the news for all the right reasons with regard to what they did at Chennai’s Marina beach. The Government had ordered the installation of temporary ramps right up to the waterfront so that people with disabilities (on wheelchairs) could go up to the water and enjoy something that other, able-bodied people can do so casually without even thinking about it.

But this is not the first time a ramp is being put up in Marina beach. This is an annual affair timed with International Day of Disabled Persons that falls on December 3rd every year. It did not happen in 2020 owing to the COVID pandemic, so it was a fairly big occasion in 2021 since it was happening after 2 years.

Usually, the Government allows the laying of a carpet-based ramp across the beach right up to the water, but this time, the ramp was made of wood, to offer better stability and movement for wheelchairs that would hardly move in beach sand without a lot of effort.

The ramp idea, in itself, is not new to Marina beach or Tamil Nadu. Many beaches around the world have installed permanent ramps leading up to the water in a bid to make them disabled-friendly. Take a look at the ramp in Canet-Plage beach in France.

Many other beaches in India too have constructed temporary ramps for the same purpose.

See similar efforts: Kovalam Beach, Kerala | Allepey Beach, Kerala | Tithal Beach, Gujarat.

While most such ramps are thought of as temporary/time-bound structures for only a small period of time, overlooking the needs of people with disabilities, an advertising attempt makes highly creative use of the same ramp as a permanent structure.

To be sure, any brand could fund the building of these ramps using any kind of material – tar, cement slabs, wood, among others, and have branding close to the ramp so that people get to know the company that made it happen.

But, it takes a stroke of creativity to link a company’s line of business and the ramp intricately so that the effort looks both genuine and highly contextual to the organization.

H&R Johnson, a well-known brand of floor and wall tiles, launched the Red Ramp Project in 2015. How does a tiles company fit in? Simple – why imagine that the tiles should be restricted to homes or bathrooms only? Why can’t they be laid to create the beach ramp? Not only are they sturdy, but they also offer a permanent ramp structure on the beach for it to become genuinely disabled-friendly!

That’s what H&R Johnson did in 2015, based on an idea by their agency Soho Square, in Goa’s Keri/Kiri beach.

The creativity demonstrated in linking a real problem and a client’s product is both brilliant and heartwarming, given the sweeping impact the effort makes on people with disabilities.

I wish more companies came forward, as part of their CSR initiatives, to add such ramps to beaches across India.

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