Guest Article: What needs to be considered when it comes to specifying accessible ramps for clients
Sharing some invaluable insight into access ramps and what needs to be considered when making them working in a client’s home, AT Today caught up with Nadege Schiltz from Secret Access, who discusses some of the most common misconceptions regarding access ramps, the increasing popularity of portable ramps and specifying ramps for clients.
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about ramps?
Most people will think that a ramp will mean UGLY, BIG or HEAVY and NOT PRACTICAL.
It is true that most ramps will change the appearance of buildings or houses and that they potentially can take up a certain amount of space which can make the “workable space” smaller in shops, having an impact on the pavement, taking up some of the drive way or the garden etc.
For portable ramps, though, most people assume they will be very heavy and they are right, most portable ramps are heavy and often unpractical. Some can even be quite dangerous, in my opinion, especially the channel ramp that can only be used if perfectly aligned and if the front and back wheels are aligned as well. However, we believe our range of portable ramps is helping to change this perception.
What should people consider when they are looking to make their home more accessible?
Practicability is the most important thing. The ramp needs to be safe to use and the user needs to be the one that feels safe using them. They should also be practical for the carer/helper/staff member that will have to put it in place and all this should be considered during the assessment and planning.
Do you install ramps in both domestic and commercial premises?
Yes. Every shop, public place, restaurant and so on should, in my opinion, be accessible and inclusive to all, and our products have been installed in many commercial and domestic environments. For example, a lady contacted us very recently telling us that she didn’t want to advertise the fact that she is in a wheelchair by putting a big ramp in front of her house. We also have people that don’t have space for a big ramp and before Secret Access, they would have needed to move house but with our range of portable ramps, we can offer a discreet solution.
Do you think businesses could do more to make their entrances more accessible?
Even though every business should be accessible, the reality is far from that. Most businesses have excuses such as “no space”, “can’t have impact on the pavement”, “listed building” … Those excuses are not applicable anymore because companies, such as Secret Access, offer a solution. France is a prime example of a country where everywhere has to be accessible by law and not complying is not an option. Every shop, restaurant, museum, bank etc. has to be accessible or they will be fined and if for some reason there is no way they can make their building accessible, they have to complete in-depth paperwork in order to explain the reasons why.
Do people have to apply for planning permission to install a ramp?
In some cases, yes, depending on the size and location of the installation. If the installation is in a private house, planning permission is not required but if it is outside and likely to have an impact on the neighbourhood, we might need to. In private properties, if the entrance is shared between more than one house, we might need to ask permission from the board of residents or management company. In a listed building, we would need to talk to English Heritage. But because the solutions we provide are not permanent, there is no need to ask the council as there is no permanent impact on the pavement or property itself.
Are portable ramps becoming more popular with people?
Portable ramps are certainly increasing in popularity. Many portable ramps claim to be portable when this is not strictly true. Here at Secret Access, we have the lightest ramp on the market, making it very easy for everybody to use. For example, even though most venues should be accessible, it is not uncommon for someone to arrive but then have to turn back because of the lack of access. A small ramp will not save you every time but it will most of the time.
Do you work with many OTs and HCPs when specifying a ramp for someone?
Yes, the number of OTs and healthcare professionals we work with is continually increasing and products, such as our range of ramps, are offering them a new solution to put forward to their client. It is so much more beneficial for all concerned if someone can remain in their home as opposed to having to move house and something as simple as an access ramp can help make this possible. Our Featherweight ramp is certainly growing in popularity because, realistically, it will be the only portable ramp that a client will ever need and there will be no excuses for the carers not to use it as it is so lightweight.
What style of ramp do you find to be the most popular?
All types are popular as many users have different requirements. The permanent automatic solutions will give priceless independence to the user. Imagine you are in a wheelchair and there is a step to get into the house of your dreams, with an automatic solution, you will be able to change this step into a ramp at the touch of a button.
The manual solutions are ideal for anybody that wants a hidden solution providing they can get assistance to take it out and back in. Portable ramps, such as our Featherweight model, are ideal for everybody as they are very easy use and incredibly lightweight.
Do people tend to pay for a ramp themselves or is their funding available?
A bit of both. Mostly people pay for a ramp themselves but I am working with more and more OTs and some of them have managed to get some funding for both permanent and manual ramps.