Until relativley recently very few buildings had level access, so just getting into their own home can be a serious issue for anyone with a disability!
A permanent or portable ramp to the front door, and perhaps other doors, will help someone in a wheelchair, on crutches or who is unstable on their feet. Many ramps are “functional” and think nothing of image, but this does not have to be the case. An Architectural Designer, such as Clive Elsdon Building Design, can help design a ramp which will work well and look good.
Gradient: The length should not be too long, and the gradient not too steep. The building regulations recommend gradients between 1 in 12 (with short lengths of ramp) and 1 in 20 (with longer lengths of ramps) but in existing situations this is not always practicable.
Landings Top & Bottom (plus mid landings for longer ramps!): There should be a 1.2m square landing at the top and bottom of the ramp. The same applies if intermediate landings are required. If the ramp is very long, it should have a change of direction in it, if that is through more than 90 degrees, the mid-landing will need to be bigger than 1.2m square.
Ramp Width: 1.2m is about the minimum width for a ramp. Again, this is not always practicable, and the specific situation will need to be assessed. Conversely, the ramp should also not be too wide!
Ramp Surface: The surface of a ramp should be non-slip, and there should be an upstand at the edge of any ramp that is not between walls to stop wheels going over the edge. Contrasting colours or tactlie paving should be used to help define the landings and ramp.
Handrails: Ideally any ramp should have handrails. This is easy if it’s right next to a wall of some description, or if a permanent concrete ramp is being installed, but not so practicable for a portable ramp. The handrails should be sufficiently strong for their purpose. Many portable ramps will perhaps omit this desirable feature.
This portable ramp can be supplied by Rampman, visit their website at: accessneeds.co.uk
Platform lifts are usually seen inside public or commercial buildings to cope with changes in internal floor level. There are however versions available which can be installed externally to provide access into a building. This solution is expensive to install and requires on-going maintenance throughout its life. An external platform lift should only really be considered once all other measures have been exhausted!
The lift pictured is by Access & Platform Lifts Ltd. You can visit there website by clicking on the picture. This particular platform lift travels along the pitch of the existing steps and could possibly be considered to be a more robust version of a stairlift (which is to be covered in a later article in this series). In the photograph the platform is in it’s stowed position, showing that access using the existing steps is still possible. There are of course other makes available and versions where the platform travels vertically rather than following the pitch of the steps.
Whilst the ramp or lift will get you to the door, it won’t get you in. Many people living with a disability are not wheelchair bound, but may be unsteady on their feet. Fitting a grab rail or handle near to the door is a simple cost effective solution that will help someone steady themselves while inserting a key, turning the handle, or even while stepping over a threshold. The positioning of the grab rail needs to be well thought out so that it offers the maximum assistance possible.
More information about the grab rails pictured above and a lot of other useful information can be found by visiting the website of the Disabled Living Foundation, asksara.org.uk.
How can Clive Elsdon Building Design Help?
Clive Elsdon Building Design, drawing on many years of experience in domestic, commercial and public building design including many projects specifically aimed at improving access, can help you with your access issues. We can work with your Health Care Professional to produce designs which ensure that you get the best adaptations to your home to suit your individual needs!
Please feel free to comment on this article or ask any questions that you have. Look out for the third article in the series, “In the House” coming soon! In that article we will be addressing internal circulation issues including door widths and level changes.
To read other articles in this series, please Click Here
(Products shown are for illustration only and are neither recommended or endorsed by Clive Elsdon Building Design. Other manufacturers and Suppliers are able to provide similar products.)