In the modern era of high density living, people are more likely than ever to reside somewhere with multiple floors. Homes are also sometimes built on sloping land, which must be taken into account during the design of an accessible home. One of the best ways to account for elevation changes is through the use of stairs, ramps or lifts.
In an ideal situation, an accessible home will be built without any stairs at all. Even one step can be a dangerous barrier for someone who is disabled or confined to a wheelchair. If it is absolutely necessary to have stairs in the home, make sure they are sized at the appropriate width.
Staircases should also include some type of nonslip surface, plenty of lighting, and a landing at the top and bottom of the stairs so that users can steady themselves. The risers should be smooth and round to minimize the chance of catching someone’s foot. It’s also important that stair components are built up to the standards of the Building Code of Australia.
Ramps are important in a universally designed home because they allow people to move over areas with different elevations. The Building Code of Australia has no governance over ramps in private homes, but the standards used in the code are still applicable for these kinds of projects. In an ideal situation, ramps will provide an accessible way for a person to traverse a small change in elevation. A ramp should never be used for a change in elevation of more than one story. The ideal ramp gradient is no steeper than 1:14. Handrails and kerbs should be provided on either side, making sure that they are designed at the right height.
Stair lifts are excellent for those who have difficulty getting up and down staircases on their own. The best stair lifts include a wall-mounted switch, a seat that is adjustable, and the proper belts and restraints to keep the user safe. A wheelchair platform lift is a slightly different version of the normal stair lift designed to carry people in wheelchairs. This kind of lift includes more rails and continuous pressure controls that are more sensitive.
With the proper design, stairs, ramps and lifts can all make a home much more accessible for people of a variety of abilities.