| || |
Getting up the On-Ramp
If you live in your own house, a ramp may be easier to install than you think, and you may have more room than you know. For instance, ramps can be built in sections with turns (switchbacks) to accommodate elevation. The first section of the ramp originates with the front or back porch. A seldom-used pathway on one side of the house may also provide needed room for a ramp. A house with a long front or back lawn is ideal, but if not, building a ramp at the edge of your property line may provide the needed space. A well-built ramp should not only provide full access to your house, but also be designed to match your house's style and architecture; that may simply require matching paint. The ramp will make a nice looking addition to the main structure.
If the height (elevation) of your entry/exit door is too tall to accommodate a ramp, it will be necessary to install a lift. Work with a contractor or carpenter to determine your options. A lift is much more expensive, but it's possible to qualify for funding, such as a home equity loan or other source.
If you're an apartment renter, you can buy a portable ramp for the entry door of your apartment building and arrange to have your landlord install it. This is a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and therefore a landlord or building owner can't refuse your use of it. If you don't occupy a ground floor unit, an elevated building is, of course, imperative.
Lifts and elevators are manufactured primarily in Canada, then assembled and shipped to resellers in the United States and other countries. Lifts are either electric or hydraulic and consist of the lift itself and a tower that runs and sits beside it. When a lift is installed, an electrician must create an outdoor electrical circuit for the lift's power source. It can be installed near the front or back entrance or to the side of the entrance or exit, providing there is sufficient rolling and turning space for a wheelchair or scooter.
A safety gate is installed at the top—against the house or structure it's built against, to prevent anyone from falling off the platform. The toe plate and side gates on the lift protects passengers from rolling off. In snowy areas, consumers are sometimes advised to keep the lift in the lowered position to prevent snow from accumulating underneath it.
Regrettably, there's very little consumer information readily available about lifts and there is no federal regulating agency. Individual states have enacted laws governing wheelchair lifts as part of elevator regulation.
However, one well-established international company, Savaria, has been in business about 30 years. Savaria produces residential and commercial elevators and lifts, stair lifts, and porch and trunk lifts. They are sold through local distributors who visit the premises to measure and assess customer needs. Check with your local Better Business Bureau or Consumer Protection Agency with questions about specific lift distributors.
Ramp Up provides ramps and interior modifications for IL through the Chicago Department of Housing and IL Housing Development Authority. Funds are limited and donations are accepted.
** Photo from Creative Commons, licensed under Attribution-Share Alike 2.0; enhanced for color and sharpness.
Remember This Formula for Wheelchair Usable Ramps:
1 on 12. That means for every foot of rise up to an entrance, you'll need a minimum of 12 feet of ramp. A steep ramp can make it impossible for someone in a manual wheelchair, not to mention that it's dangerous. If space permits, it's even better to have 20 feet of ramp for every foot of rise. Somewhere between 12 and 20 would be ideal. Most ramps are built out of wood with anti-slip adhesive strips to prevent surface from becoming slippery.
Ramps must be at least three feet wide and have handrails on both sides. For every 30 inches of ramp rise, there must be a level rest platform at least five feet long. Additionally, wherever a ramp changes direction, a five-by-five footrest platform must be provided. If there is a drop off on one side of a ramp, some kind of protective curb is necessary. Hire a carpenter who is experienced with accessible building codes, including ADA guidelines.
For other considerations about ramps including materials, weight, and cost, please see this website.