Making your home more accessible for handicapped aids like wheelchairs is a must for many of people with either disabilities or for the elderly. Typically the first step to make in a lack of mobility situation is to install a wheelchair ramp. Having a ramp installed on your home will improve a person’s life tremendously by entering and exiting the house freely and independently with little to no help from other members of the family.
There are many options for installing or building a wheelchair ramp that can be quite easy to accomplish and have a few options to consider. One choice you can decide on is to take the route of DIY and have the family join together for a weekend project or option #2 is to hire a professional to install one for you. No matter your choice of individual you decide to complete the job, there are some key elements to building and designing the ideal wheelchair ramp for you.
Choosing a ramp that’s right for you
Each accessibility ramp is unique and choosing one that is the right fit for your needs is most important. There are many factors to consider when finding the perfect wheelchair ramp for your home. First question to ask your self is; what type of mobile aid(s) will the person use? Also, there is a chance that the mobile aid that the person is currently using could evolve and change over time. Maybe they currently use a cane or walker but as the years go on, a person may need to switch to a wheelchair as they continue to age.
The next question to consider is; what entrance of the house is the accessibility ramp going to be installed on? Some homes will have obstacles that need to be taken into consideration such as landscape features that will need to be built around. It is also important to check with any zoning requirements in your area through the township or HOA that may require special requirements. Next, deciding on the material you want to use in the construction of the ramp needs to be chosen. Your budget and preference on whether function is more important than curb appeal will help in these decisions. Also Depending on the material chosen, this may or may not make it harder to move at a later time if the ramp is not intended on being a permanent fixture on the home. Lastly, a question to ask yourself about your unique ramp is; how much time do you want to put into construction? It is sometimes best to consult a professional contractor to complete the ramp installation.
Designing the Ramp
The design and requirements of your ramp will be unique because of the factors such as layout of the home or yard and the height needed for ramp. A short ramp would do perfect for a situation with only a couple steps or less than 3 foot incline but if your home is higher off the ground, a ramp will need to be designed with platforms so the incline is not so steep. Platforms are flat landing areas that help break up a ramp to allow the incline to only reach 30 inches. The Recommendation from ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) that platforms are minimum 60 inches square in order to allow a user enough space to turn in a wheelchair as needed. This also allows a person to stop moving and take a break when needed. Platforms also assist in navigating around obstacles or allow ramps to fit in smaller areas.
The width of the wheel chair ramp is another important aspect to measure for your design. It is recommended by ADA a minimum of 36 inches in between hand rails. This specific measurement should allow even manual wheelchairs the ability to fit comfortably. A reminder to measure in between the closest part of hand rail not at the base otherwise it could cause a person in wheelchair to hit their elbows on the railing if too close.
Guidelines are put into place by ADA to insure that the utmost safety is guaranteed. If working with a contractor, be sure they are building your ramp to be ADA compliant in order to successfully build and design a ramp with safety in mind. If installing a ramp at a business and is not ADA compliant, you can expect it to lead to fines in future as well. Some of these guidelines include: no- skid surfaces, handrails on both sides for any ramp longer than 6 inches, platforms installed if ramp is over 30 feet, and at least a 2 inch flange on bottom sides of ramp to prevent slipping off.
Two materials that you can choose from when building your ramp is either wood or metal. Of course with every option, each has their advantages and disadvantages. In the end, no matter the material you choose a ramp should be secured strongly to the ground and anti slip surface added. Taking a closer look at wood ramps, they are typically used in a permanent setting and if built correctly they can last for many years and add true value to your home. The surface of the decking is very important to ensure it is non slip. If ramp is made with a bad type of wood, it will quickly become very slippery in wet weather for everyone using it not only for the disabled. Make sure to do your research on companies who produce ADA-compliant composite materials such as Trex Accents that help increase traction on its surface.
When taking a look at metal for material of choice on your wheel chair ramps aluminum is a top contender. A primary advantage of metal as your material is the ease of installation. Some installs can be done in an hour and also easily removed and transported to a new home if and when needed. If needing a more complex design, metal ramps are great options for this as well and can be custom designed with platforms. The overall appearance of a metal ramp is much pleasing to your curb appeal but there are some that have been designed to look less medical looking.
Prebuilt or Custom Wheelchair Ramps
There are several companies through medical supply or home improvement stores that can assist when choosing a pre-built ramp that is ready to be installed and can be easier route for many compared to building new from scratch. On the other hand, if deciding to build and design your own wheelchair ramp it can be a cost savings on materials but will take more time than installing a pre- built option. Another great advantage of a custom ramp is that is can fit an individuals needs and overcome any special challenges. Hiring a professional contractor to help with your ramp needs will save you time and make this project much less stressful from start to finish.
Glen Miller the Home Doctor is a licensed general contractor servicing Livingston County and the surrounding areas. Glen offers a wide range of services including home maintenance plans, age in place remodeling, kitchen and bathroom remodeling, finished basements, and hardwood floor refinishing. More information can be found online at https://www.glenmillerthehomedoctor.com/.