Page 6 - Mobility Management, October/November 2020
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Ramp Priorities: ADA Is Not Always the Law at Home
If you’re familiar with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you know its oversight does not extend to residential properties. While many of the guidelines for clearances, hallways and ramps are still useful for inclu- sive design and allow the safest and most comfortable access, the truth is that sometimes ADA guidelines are not feasible at a residence due to space restrictions. So how do you prioritize and decide which ones should be followed at home?
When strict adherence isn’t possible, it’s a matter of picking and choosing based on the following guidelines.
Understand the Guidelines
When looking specifically at ramps, there are a few fundamental guidelines in the ADA. They can be summa- rized as:
1. A hard, level surface at the door at least 5' long
and as wide as the ramp. If it is turning, it must have
a 5'x5' clearance.
2. Turns should be at least 5'x5' and be level.
3. Ramp slope should be 1:12/4.8°.
4. The ramp should land on a hard, level surface at
least 5' long and as wide as the ramp. If it is turning,
it must have a 5'x5' clearance.
5. Ramp runs should not be longer than 30'.
Reviewing each guideline, we see that the ramp is more than just the shortest way to get around a set of steps. The top and bottom of the ramp provide clear- ance to open doors and get into vehicles. The ramp slope prevents difficulty going up or controlling the rate down the ramp, and the resting platform is needed to give users a safe place to rest if they become weary.
Understanding the Consumer & Mobility Devices
In addition, it’s important to know about the consumers who will be using the finished product.
Who is using this ramp, and how? Is someone helping them? Are they getting to their vehicle or the sidewalk for public transportation?
How much upper-body strength do they have? If a caregiver is pushing them, how strong is the caregiver? Are they self-propelling in a manual chair, or are they
using a scooter or a power chair? How well can they maneuver their mobility device? What are the mobility device manufacturer’s guidelines for allowable slope? How much room do the vehicles need for turns?
Deciding What to Prioritize
The ADA guidelines are as inclusive as possible to a large population of users with disabilities. A residential modifi- cation can focus on the individual needs of the people who will be using the ramp.
When looking at a specific situation such as a 32" rise and 32' of space, you have three options. One, keep
the slope and skip the resting platform; two, shorten the slope and keep the rest platform; or three, rearrange the layout to keep it fully ADA compliant, adding switchback platforms to fit as much ramping as possible.
In this situation, the solution rests with the needs of
the individual and their mobility device. A person with
a power wheelchair or scooter likely will be able to go with option one or two while staying comfortable, and the preference will be up to them. For an older individual self-propelling with a manual wheelchair, an increase in slope could prove dangerous, and the safest option is having the longer, but fully compliant option three.
Now what if the patient is primarily or frequently trans- ported via Emergency Medical Services (EMS)? In this case, you will want a ramp that is as straight as possible to make it easy for the stretcher to maneuver. And while the rest platform can be helpful, two EMS personnel should be fine without it.
Choosing to stray from the guidelines put forth by the ADA can be safely done, but should be done with an understanding of the patient, and the purpose of the guidelines to prioritize which ones can be relaxed. m
Editor’s note: This column was contributed by National Ramp, based in Valley Cottage, N.Y.

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