Sunday, April 17, 2011


As an architect, I never thought I would have the ADA hit so close to home, but nonetheless, here we are. We are having to make modifications to the house, most of which are efforts just to get her chair around the house smoothly. We had used ADA guidelines as a reference, incorporating some of these concepts into the addition (i.e. 3' doors, wider clearances in the kitchen, etc.) but the existing parts of the house prove to be a little more complicated. Modifying a 1953 ranch to meet any sort of ADA compliance is not an easy task. On the interior, there are 2' wide doors and if you can find a 3' turning radius anywhere but the center of the living room, you're ecstatic. The exterior is equally as challenging.

We have been getting accustomed to Mira's new chair over the past few months and one of the challenges we noticed right from the start was just getting the chair in and out of the house. The KidCart (her former system) was easy, since we could simply detach the chair from the base and either carry it out or practically bounce it down the two steps on our front stoop, since it was so light. A majority of the time, the base stayed in the van, so it was really a non-issue. The Zippie (her new chair) weighs considerably more and has anti-tip brackets on the back, which makes it more difficult to get down even a couple stairs.

Back in January, we had a Band-Aid solution, which was to buy a folding ramp until we could modify the front walkway of the house permanently. The folding ramp was suffice for a few months, but running down the 5' incline with the Zippie ended up being a 30 degree dive downward that you learned to prep for with a broad stance and a firm grip on the storm door when stepping onto the stoop. Unfortunately, we could only fit a 5' run from the stoop before we ended up in the bushes, based on the curved walkway.

The challenge with a permanent ramp was to not take on yet another costly and lengthy home improvement exercise - we have met our quota for the next 10 years. So we decided the easiest and most cost effective solution was to simply pour a concrete slope directly over our existing walk. There was some minor demolition, in order to get good concrete coverage and to fan out the end of the path in order to get around the van when parked. We also used geofoam (lightweight foam) to reduce the weight of the concrete at the deeper sections toward the house. In addition to the ramp itself, we also had a small 3' x 20' pad poured on the opposite side of the driveway to get around the van more easily.

It was the obvious and least-invasive solution - the whole project went off without a hitch and was finished quickly. The ramp is only slightly steeper than a typical ADA slope, but it works beautifully for us. We will have some landscape work to do in the future, but ironically, you can barely notice the ramp from the street, as it is right now.

I wanted to extend my eternal thanks to our neighbor Jim Rothberg, who sacrificed his time, materials, and expertise in getting this done for us. We are tremendously grateful for all of your efforts and hard work. Sarah and I cannot thank you enough.