If you need to facilitate wheelchair or handicap access to a home or structure that has a raised foundation, and stairs are not a viable option, essentially, you have two other choices: you can install either a ramp or a porch lift.
In order to figure out if a ramp is a practical alternative, you’re going to have to do a lot of measuring and then perform some simple arithmetic. The first thing you need to determine is the extent of the rise between the ground and the structure’s entry level. In other words, what is the “rise?” Once you know the rise, then you can calculate how much ramping will be required.
According to the federal government’s Americans with Disabilities Act, the legal standard for the ratio of rise to ramping in public buildings is 1:12. In other words, for every inch of rise, the law requires twelve inches, or one foot, of ramping. Now, your home is not a public building and some municipal or county building codes might be more lenient requiring only, perhaps, 8 inches of ramping for every 1 inch of rise, so it’s important to check with your local government, if you need to build a steeper ramp. But the ADA ratio is considered the safest solution.
So, for example, if the rise between the ground and the entry level is 30 inches, you’re generally going to need 30 feet of ramping. Now that you know how many linear feet of ramping is necessary either for code or safety requirements, you’re going to have to measure again, this time to determine if you have 30 feet of room in which to put a ramp. If you don’t have a 30 foot straightaway, you’re going to need to break up the ramp with platforms, landings and/or turnarounds. Don’t try to estimate this essential element. Make sure that you have a solid plan that you can implement before you spend time and money installing a ramp.
If you decide that a ramp is doable, your material choices will likely be either wood or some type of metal – most probably aluminum. Wood may be less expensive, but aluminum generally requires less maintenance and can stand up better to inclement weather. Whatever material you choose, make sure that you apply some sort of non-skid surface to it. Also, make sure that the transition from the ground to the ramp is as smooth as possible. Bumps are difficult to navigate in a wheelchair.
If, for any reason, a ramp is not an acceptable option, your other choice is an exterior porch lift. While a porch lift will likely be more expensive than a ramp, it will always take up less space. In addition, a porch lift will often be the only choice if the rise is considerable. For example, a rise of 5 feet, or 60 inches, would require a 60 foot ramp. That amount of ramping simply might not be possible in any configuration on many pieces of property.
Before you decide on which alternative is the best one for your situation, you should seek out professional advice. Here at the Pacific Mobility Center, we can assist you in making the right decision for yourself or a loved one. Call us for a no-cost assessment and a member of our staff will work with you toward the most appropriate solution.
President, Husband, Father, Grandfather Graduate of UC Davis- Bio Sci Major- Go Aggies! Jeff has extensive experience in all of Pacific Mobility’s products and services, and specializes in accessibility products as well as stairlifts, ceiling lifts and custom wheel chairs. His hobbies include spending time with family, gardening, mountain biking, exercising and off road motorcycle riding.
24 years as Owner/President of Pacific Mobility Center – selling, installing, and servicing stairlifts, porch lifts, ceiling lifts, pool lifts, handicap ramping, specialty wheelchairs, scooters, power wheel chairs, and other power mobility devices
Certified Environmental Access Consultant since 2008
Licensed General Contractor since 1998
Certified Aging in Place Specialist since 2016
Board Member for Home Access Professionals
Member of Association of Members of the Accessibility Equipment Industry (AEMA)
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