People with permanent or temporary mobility impairments cannot live full or independent lives unless they can easily enter and exit their homes. Building appropriate ramps and specially equipped staircases can be expensive and, when done incorrectly, can be hard to use and unsafe. The alternative to ramps and staircases is usually institutionalization, which is often government funded.
With these factors in mind, the Minnesota Department of Economic Security and the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL) felt the benefits to society of a government funded ramp program were clear, and it initiated The Minnesota Ramp Project. The Project provides information and assistance to individuals and families to help resolve home access problems caused by mobility impairments.
In 1992, the Project designed a modular, reusable wheelchair ramp that allows for fast construction, utilization of volunteer labor, easy removal and reduced costs. In addition, the ramp is constructed of components that can be reused multiple times. For those with some walking ability, an alternate method of improving access has also been created. Long-tread, low-riser steps-also modular and reusable-were designed because they are easier for some people to walk on than a ramp.
For those who wish to build their own ramps, the construction manual "How to Build Ramps," published by MCIL in 1993, has been distributed throughout Minnesota. A companion video will also soon be distributed to over four hundred Centers for Independent Living across the country. The information provided in these materials helps individuals meet their own needs, and helps organizations assist their communities. The Project provides an easily replicable model.
To date, over three hundred Minneapolis and St. Paul residents have taken advantage of the Project's development of the modular design, which allows more consumer involvement and encourages recycling of access solutions. The greatest benefits of the Minnesota Ramp Project are the government resources saved and independence gained by preventing those with mobility impairments from being institutionalized.