Living With Polio


Most people are very surprised at how much space is required install an ADA (Americans with Disabilities) compliant ramp. A very strong helper can push a wheelchair up a ramp that is steeper than 1/12 (1 inch of height for every foot of length) which is the MINIMUM SLOPE allowed for a residence. Many power chairs are powerful enough to climb a ramp that is steeper than code. It is recommended that a ramp in a commercial building have a gentler slope of 1/20.

Attached is a diagram which depicts a possible outdoor ramp solution for a home which is elevated 3 feet above ground level. In this case a horse shoe ramp is shown with two transitional landings. For this home legally to have one long 36 foot ramp but there must be a 5 foot long landing at or before 30 feet. It would also be possible to have one or two switch backs.

Our experience is that plywood covered ramps with or without exterior carpet are not good ideas. Water does not drain off well and rot and mold occur very quickly. We prefer pressure treated lumber: 2X6 for decking supported by 4X4 post and 4X8 girders and joists. The easiest way to set the posts is to use prefabricated concrete piers. The handrails do not need be pressure treated. Painted or stained wood require more maintenance.

Baldwin Keenan, Retired Carpenters Club 108, June 2011

Retired Club 108 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters has an eight year history in Orange County, California of installing grab bars and other, sometimes extensive modifications, on the homes of polio survivors, the vision impaired and others whose medical problems impair their use of their home. We donate our labor and are usually able to obtain donations for materials. Most of our projects are referred by the Dayle McIntosh Center for Independent Living. Some have come through the Braille Institute and the Post-Polio Support Group of Orange County.

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