We need a ramp installed at our home. My husband can no longer climb stairs. We're over 68 years old and are concerned about safety, but don't want to advertise to those who pass by that we are vulnerable. Do you have any suggestions?
-Eileen, Minneapolis, MN
What does a ramp at the front of your house tell everyone about you…is it identifying you as an easy “target” for a crime? When the need for a ramp arises, instead of placing a ramp at the front entrance door to the house, there are two alternate locations for a more concealed ramp placement.
If there is an attached garage, a ramp can be installed in the garage with direct access into the house. This option provides protection from the effects of rain, snow and ice. Placing the ramp in the garage is preferred by most individuals and, since it is protected from the weather elements, can also extend the longevity of the ramp and eliminate the need for regular maintenance to protect the wood.
The challenging part of a garage ramp design is that in order to achieve a safe slope (general guideline is that for every 1” in rise, there should be 12” of ramped surface, plus 5’x5’ minimum level landings at the top, bottom and each direction change), the length/size of the ramp can take up one entire parking stall, if not more It is important to determine if eliminating a parking stall is an option, or if it will be necessary to add an additional parking stall onto the garage.
If the garage is the preferred location for access into the home, and it is not possible to eliminate a parking stall, a vertical platform lift and landing may be an option as it may take up less square footage.
If there isn’t an attached garage, or it is not possible to provide access through the garage, a second location for ramp placement is on the back side of the house, entering the home through an existing patio/back door, or door not seen from the road. If an existing door is not provided, a new door can be easily added…possibly in a location where a window currently exists…or the ramp could tie into an emergency egress route (e.g.: from the accessible bedroom). By placing the ramp at the back of the home, the ramp is hidden from the street.
When constructing a ramp at the back of a home, keep in mind it will be necessary to provide a connecting sidewalk between the vehicle drop-off area and the ramp. This can also be an opportunity to create an exterior patio or deck in addition to the ramp, thereby providing “useable outdoor” space for the individual using the wheelchair.
Be aware of water drainage issues from the roof so the new sidewalk and ramp are not a “pooling” site for water drainage creating a slippery situation. Water can be routed under the sidewalk by providing a “sleeve” for the down spout or through a grate placed in the walkway creating a “trough drain”.
Additional lighting may be necessary along the sidewalk and ramp, and at the door landing area. Motion sensor lights are a convenient option.
As a last resort, if the only place to construct a ramp is at the front entrance, there are ways to “disguise” it and visually connect it or blend the ramp in to the home by using similar architectural elements and appropriate landscaping. By doing so, you can make the ramp “disappear” and in some cases actually add “curb appeal”.
Jane Hampton, CID, CAPS
President, Accessibility Design, Inc.