Home Accessibility

Home accessibility for those with mobility challenges in manual and power wheelchairs includes the use of wheelchair ramps. Can you access your home without having to build a ramp? That will depend upon your home structure and your door access.



Invisible Ramps

For ranch style homes built in the 1950’s and 1960’s the front stoop can be enlarged and raised to the height of the interior floor, providing weather protection at the threshold with a new porch roof it will also give visual emphasis to the front door.

Most driveways are large enough to allow you to gently slope the entry further down the driveway. This can be achieved by building up the grade and landscaping to enhance the new home accessible walkway. This gives the wheelchair user better access and a more gracious appealing entry for your visitors.

All you “lose” is the shortcut from the garage door to the front door. A porch roof may require a zoning variance if your ranch house is set back minimally from the street.

Portable Ramps

Small portable ramps for a 5” step may be temporary or permanent. A removable solution may include a ramp made from ¼” plywood with a frame made from 2” x 6” at 16” center to center for manual wheelchairs.

Remember all wood exposed to the elements should be pressure treated or finished with exterior paint or sealant. For a patio a 5’ x 5’ flat space is needed for the wheelchair user to open the door independently.

Products

Polyethylene is one of the newest products on the market for portable wheelchair ramps; it comes in a variety of colors and is offered by Guldmunn, Inc. The Stepless Excellent Ramp System has pieces that snap together and form the configuration you need. In some cases it can be used in sunken living rooms, transitions from the garage to the main house, and as a permanent solution. For more information you can visit www.guldmann.com

Other temporary systems include aluminum to facilitate a level transition. It is not as versatile and does not fit all configurations, such as providing a flat level area in front of the door.

Other styles of wheelchair ramps can be found at www.spinlife.com, www.rollaramp.com and www.adaptiveaccess.com.

When purchasing any new product it is essential that it is appropriate for your specific needs. Be sure to inquire about durability, portability, weight and any other features that you are looking for.

Wheelchair Accessible Bedroom

Home accessibility inside your home also means that you are going to want your bedroom to be wheelchair accessible. If you have a master bedroom or are thinking of adding one be sure that it will be large enough for the wheelchair user to maneuver the wheelchair, transfer to bed, access the furniture, such as a dresser and support areas such as closets and dressing areas.

Furnishings

Home accessibility not only includes entrance ramps, but also the size of the bed, the floor plan of the room, the type of furniture, closet access, etc.

You may need a slightly larger than conventional master bedroom. Many variables need to be considered which include the selected bed size, closet layout and furniture arrangement. Most mattresses are fairly standardized in widths and come in different lengths. Generally you can add 3” for a headboard and another 3” for a foot board to come up with the overall length.

Clear access on at least one side of the bed is critical as most individuals dress and undress on their beds.

Lower dressers with 2 or 3 side by side columns of narrow, lightweight drawers (18” to 24”) with single drawer pulls are easier for wheelchair users. Heavy drawers and double pulls may require the wheelchair user to set their brakes to keep from rolling forward or backward when they pull or push the drawers from a front access.

A side approach eliminates this problem and an effective extension the users range to reach further ahead, higher and lower. Allow adequate clear space to fully open drawers, which is a minimum of 4” in front of the dresser. entrance ramps, but also the size of the bed, the floor plan of the room, the type of furniture, closet access, etc.

You may need a slightly larger than conventional master bedroom. Many variables need to be considered which include the selected bed size, closet layout and furniture arrangement. Most mattresses are fairly standardized in widths and come in different lengths. Generally you can add 3” for a headboard and another 3” for a foot board to come up with the overall length.

Clear access on at least one side of the bed is critical as most individuals dress and undress on their beds.

Lower dressers with 2 or 3 side by side columns of narrow, lightweight drawers (18” to 24”) with single drawer pulls are easier for wheelchair users. Heavy drawers and double pulls may require the wheelchair user to set their brakes to keep from rolling forward or backward when they pull or push the drawers from a front access.

A side approach eliminates this problem and an effective extension the users range to reach further ahead, higher and lower. Allow adequate clear space to fully open drawers, which is a minimum of 4” in front of the dresser.

Closets

Double height poles provide space efficiency, low built-in shelving. Closet doors need to be as wide as practical for non-walk-in closets – in order to open and close a wide door that swings outward you need to have maneuvering room outside the door. You can install sliding or bi-fold doors, however, these may cause reduced access problems. Track mounted bi-fold doors project into the passageway when they are open and also have floor mounted track.

A pair of narrow closet doors that swing out (18”-24” wide) may be easier for the wheelchair user than a single wide leaf, as it is easier to keep clear of the door swing on narrow doors.

The ideal position is to have both doors open at 180 degrees; shutter hung bi-fold doors that typically have two narrow panels (10”-12” each), reduces the necessary maneuvering space and does not have floor tracks to obstruct access.

Most architects and homebuilders are returning to the “walk-in” or “roll-in” closet style for the best choice in home accessibility for the wheelchair user. Ideally it is 5’ wide, slightly narrower may work if partial toe space is available under closet pole on one or both sides. A 3’ user space requires the wheelchair user to back out rather than turning around inside.

Summary

Home accessibility designs require some advanced planning, research ramps, furniture options and floor space.

It is important to understand and incorporate the ADA guidelines when building your access ramp. It not only includes the specifications, but also what type of materials and planning, contacting the local building inspector for any local laws regarding ramps, measuring carefully and accurately, looking at other ramps in your neighborhood or at pictures for ideas and inspiration, taking pictures of your site to help your create a construction plan, and contacting your local utility companies prior to digging regarding pipes, wires, etc.

Generally telephone lines are shallow and electrical lines are placed 24”-36” deep.

Make your home accessible by building ADA compliant ramps. Read more to find out just what ADA specifications are.

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