power wheelchairs, wheelchair access, wheelchair ramp

Outdoor Access!

Accessing my back patio had been between difficult and not possible for awhile.  When I was getting around by cane and then rollator it took patience and sometimes help navigating my back door’s 6 inch step and closing the door behind me. When the step became too steep I required assistance. Then I became an at home wheelchair user. I really missed my patio.

I started looking at ramp vendors when I became a regular at home rollator user. The quotes were in the $2,000 US range for an unattached metal platform + 6 foot ramp. The 1 foot ramp length per 1 inch step height is recommended for walking and self propelled wheelchairs. Then another vendor took a look when I was using the powerchair. He told me how the platform would need to come out much further than my sidewalk edge. This is a side door that accesses the patio directly behind the house. The houses are very close together. The suggested platform would cross the property line. That option was not possible. I have a set of 4 tall windows that face the patio. One option was to put a door in the window space and add the ramp along the patio edge. That would be an expensive change. Plus, that would require approvals from 2 layers of HOAs.

In the meantime, I needed a second method of rolling out of the house. I have a ramp in my garage to the house already. While visiting my sister I found that a suitcase ramp and a wooden 40 inch square platform worked well for the 8 inch step from her garage into the house with my powerchair. We thought, “Wouldn’t that combination work for my side door too?” I recruited a son. He agreed he could make a platform with guidance. My plan was to see if we could make something usable that could fit the space and be unattached. I saw this as a temporary solution until I picked, then received HOA approval and have installed a final project.

Once home we measured the sidewalk and found it was 36 inches wide. OK. The sidewalk surface was 2 inches from the ground. So, I would need a 40 inches long, 4 inches wide, and 2 inches tall foot for the platform. 

Armed with all of the measurements I started my basic outer frame design and explored my materials options. 5 bricks that were 8x4x2 would be a perfect foot. 3 severe weather treated 8 foot lengths of 2x4s would be the perfect frame. 1 8 foot by 4 foot by ¾ inch severe weather treated plywood sheet would create the platform. A black outdoor carpet roll (5 foot by 8 foot) would be bare foot friendly. Then my favorite find – 6 foot lengths of already made basic deck railing. I bought 2. I also bought 3 ½ inch deck screws for the frame and platform and 2 inch black deck screws to attach the black carpet.

I also bought a sturdy jig saw. We already had a drill for the screws. Some of the deck screw boxes came with the needed drill bit. The son was very excited to not have to find the right drill bit!

So how do these materials add up to the 6 inch drop? 4 inches from a 2×4 + 1 ½ inches from 2 layers of ¾ inch thick plywood + less than ½ inch thick carpet = a little more than 5 ½ inches. My powerchairs can easily do a ½ inch threshold.

I will go into the design and construction steps next time. Until then, here is a mid-construction platform and ramp picture. 

40 inch square platform and suitcase ramp.
40 inch square platform and suitcase ramp.

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