Friday, February 2, 2018

"Ramps Are A Popular AIP Solution, But There Are Some Considerations"

For many people, putting in a ramp at the entrance to their home is the first aging in place project they think of or consider. Sometimes it's not even something they need at the moment but something they are anticipating needing in the near future. They likely will call someone to have it done, but they could install a makeshift plywood ramp.

That being said, what would be our response if someone contacted us about installing a ramp for them or a loved one? Would you know how to proceed? Would we have a typical response, or would we treat this as an opportunity to learn what is going on with our potential client and suggest other improvements in addition to or in place of the ramp? It could be that they really don't need it yet or that they other, more pressing needs that they have not considered.

Assuming that a ramp really is called for, do you know why they need it, for how long, where it needs to go, what might be required to install it, what their budget is, if they want it to be a temporary installation or a permanent one, and what their homeowners association, municipal codes, or neighbors have to say about a ramp installation?

Depending on what their needs, requirements, urgency (timing), and budget might be, it may be a relatively simple matter to deliver and install a ramp, or it may take some real planning and time to get it done. Also, is this something that we stock, that we build, or that we have a ramp company that we work with install?

Obviously, it could be as simple as putting in a temporary ramp, but what does the homeowner or tenant want - and what are the installation requirements, if any? Are there compliance issues - materials, appearance, length, or styling, for instance? Can it be done as a temporary improvement - if that's what the client wants - or does it have to be done as a permitted and inspected structure?

Is the objective just to provide a way to reach the entrance safely and easily from the driveway or walk, or are there other expressed desires such as aesthetics, size, materials, surface, and ease of access and use?

What is the length of the proposed ramp from the bottom to the top, and how much distance does it need to cover? There is an effective limit to how much lift they can provide and still be usable so make sure that a ramp is the appropriate solution.

Then there's the matter or what it's made of and whether it can be substantial enough to serve our potential client and their needs. are there more than one person's mobility needs?

Before committing to a ramp, we may want to consider an alternative - again depending on what the client wants, how much time is available for us to do the construction before it needs to be used, what building requirements may need to be met, and the length of time (if known) that it needs to last.

Rather than a temporary measure, we might be able to consider - and discuss with our client - building a permanent inclined walkway to cover the desired distance in a straight line, gently curved, or switchback style. That walkway can have a concrete or brick surface (slip resistant and weather tolerant), and it can be designed with planting areas along either side depending on how much space is available to create and deliver it.

When the inclined walkway is done, it can potentially be much longer and rise a greater distance than a traditional ramp. It can also look like it is a normal part of the home - designed as a landscaping feature as much as being a function ramp. It can be an extremely attractive and desirable addition to the home.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.