When considering our vehicle upgrade options, we kept high in mind access for persons with physical challenges. Our previous layout was very friendly to those in wheelchairs and walkers – they could move amongst the rolling carts with ease, and the trailer side-window shelves seemed to be at a useful height. Some of the bookmobiles on the used market feature powered wheelchair lifts and in fact we came close to making a deal on one. Fortunately that fell through because we ended up with a much better overall rig, one that should serve the people of Sonoma County effectively and efficiently for many years to come. And thanks to funding from First 5 Sonoma County for modifications, we were able to outfit it with an access ramp.
Mobile ramps strike a balance between weight, strength, and length. The heavier and longer the ramp is, the more difficult it is to handle and store. It must be strong enough, however, to support someone in a bulky wheelchair plus an attendant at the same time. It must also be long enough to provide a reasonable slope up into the vehicle. Our top stair terminates at about 28″ off the ground, so this is not a trivial consideration! We settled on a 2-piece LiteRamp in a 10′ length and our initial deployments have worked out well.
At our first trial in Cotati, we came to appreciate the non-skid surface, which several patrons in walkers utilized as they slowly made their way down the ramp, applying their brakes to steady the descent. Then we scheduled a day of visits to senior residences exclusively. Again the ramp proved trustworthy, as at one point two helpers kept a person in a wheelchair slow and straight coming down. The three of us plus the chair must have weighed at least 600 lbs, well within the weight limit, and it was smooth sailing. While inside the bookmobile, the chair passed easily down the corridor between the children’s benches. Of course some of the shelves are a bit high for seated browsing, so we are always on-hand to assist with that part, too.
We had one more milestone in store for us that day. From an assisted-living facility in Healdsburg, a 103-year-old woman with a walker made her way independently up the ramp to look for large-print books. Thanks to our wonderful community donors, we had several in stock to offer her!