2015 HME Handbook

How to Assess a Home for a Home Access Ramp Installation

Providers must consider various factors when assessing a client’s home for a ramp installation.

Home Access

One of the key opportunities for providers to expand their businesses over the past few yeas has been home access. It is largely cash-driven and represents a wide range of product and service categories from bathroom grab bars to entire home remodels.

Moreover, home access offers providers an evolution path for building a business. They can start by offering simple products and work their way up to more complex undertakings as they gain expertise and education. One of the first places to start is with the entryway. Not to be trite, but home access starts at the front door. Patients with mobility limitations must have a method for entering a home, and when the front door is off the ground — as most front doors are — one of the key ways to accomplish that is with an access ramp.

However, installing ramps involves a number of considerations, including the space available to accommodate the ramp, the patient’s mobility condition, the local weather, and even aesthetics (let’s remember, the residence the patient wants to access isn’t just a house, it’s the patient’s home, and the patient will want to have something that they think looks decent).

Suffice it to say if providers want to protect their businesses, then home access is a key category to pursue, and ramps are a key element of that category. Let’s take a look at some of the considerations that they should include when assessing a client’s home for a ramp installation:

Get Trained

Before installing any ramps, the provider will need to get trained. An excellent way to start this process is by getting in-house training from the ramp manufacturer(s) with which the provider will work. They will not only cover all the general aspects of ramp installation, but they will cover the specifics related to their products so that the provider can have expert, first-hand knowledge of the solutions it is selling. Additionally, you should consider getting a Level 2 or 3 Certified Environmental Access Consultants (CEAC) designation from the VGM Group Inc.’s Accessible Home Improvement of America. (To learn more about CEAC, turn to page 24.)

Start with Safety

In very basic terms ensure a safe installation for ramps, there must be a foot of ramp for every inch of rise between the ground the entry way. But the ground is rarely flat, so the provider will need to look at the lay of the land. A good. So, for example, let’s say there is 12 inches of rise. The provider can simply go 12 feet out and start installing the ramp, it needs to see what the terrain is like over that 12 feet. A good way to do that is through a string level. The provider might discover, for example, that the ground falls away by that 12 feet by another 8 inches, so the provider will actually need to install 20 feet of ramp. Further more, the ramp can’t simply butt up to the front door. There needs to be ample space for the patient to come to a stop, open the door and enter. Also, above all, have a solid understanding of local codes governing ramp installations.

Access Doesn’t Stop at the Ramp

Don’t forget the actual entry. There is a good chance that the provider will need to install a threshold ramp to ensure a mobility patient can safely get through the front door and into the home. In fact, in some cases the patient might need a wider doorframe. In those events, the provider will want to partner with a few local contractors to ensure that a new frame can be installed and a wider door can be hung to code. So make sure to establish solid relationships with local pros and make them a part of your resource lists.

Make Efficient Use of Space

A patient wants an access ramp to enter his or her home, but he or she also wants the ramp to have as small a “footprint” as possible. A few twists and turns can radically reduce the space a ramp takes up. Likewise, it can also decrease the amount of “visual space” that a ramp consumes, which can be important in terms of aesthetics. That means the provider needs to have a solid understanding of the modular ramp offerings available so that an installation takes up as little space as possible.

Consider ‘Curb Appeal’

And aesthetics count for a lot. They say that looks aren’t everything, but real estate agents place a good deal of emphasis on the ephemeral concept of “curb appeal” — how a home looks from the street — for good reason. Chances are, so will your client. That means you want to offer a range of solutions that will compliment the residences in the areas you are serving. The goal is to provide something that pairs well with the exterior looks of the home while still providing serviceable access to it. Regularly take the time to review what is available from various ramp vendors and consider whether or not your businesses should expand its range of offerings. Also, make sure you’re up to speed on local homeowners associations’ covenants, conditions, and restrictions, as some might have specific rules regarding access equipment and installations.

Don’t Forget Durability

At the same time, while the ramp needs to suit your patients’ design sensibilities, it also needs to stand up to the elements. Make sure the materials and fittings will stand up to the local weather, and that high-traction, no-slip surfaces are installed to ensure safety. Bearing this in mind, have solid familiarity of each product’s suitability for the weather, and each vendor’s warranty in this regard.

Points to Take Away:

  • Home access is a key retail revenue opportunity and ramps are an important offering.
  • Providers should get vendor training at the least, and look into a Level 2 or a Level 3 CEAC designation.
  • Understand all the elements of a safe ramp installation and know the capabilities of each product in terms of safety and durability.
  • Don’t forget to include local homeowner’s requirements and codes in the decision-making, as well as suiting your client’s aesthetic needs.

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This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of HME Business.

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