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Making Garages Accessible for Everyone

May 15, 2024
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Imagine you pull into your driveway, eager to unload the groceries. But as you approach the garage, a hurdle appears – a steep step or a narrow doorway that makes maneuvering a challenge. This scenario, unfortunately, is all too real for millions of Americans with disabilities (PWDs).

A Growing Need: Disability Demographics in the US

The number of people with disabilities in the US is significant and rising. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 61 million adults in the US – that's one in four – have a disability [1]. This population encompasses a wide range of physical, sensory, and cognitive limitations. As our population ages, these numbers are projected to grow, highlighting the need for inclusive design across all aspects of life, including the humble garage.

Garage Games: Challenges Faced by PWDs

So, what exactly makes garages such a struggle for some? Here's a breakdown of the common obstacles:

Doorways: Standard garage doors are often narrow, posing a problem for individuals using wheelchairs, walkers, or scooters.

Thresholds: Those pesky raised steps at the garage entrance can be a tripping hazard or a complete barrier for someone navigating with mobility aids.

Limited Maneuvering Space: Cramped garages often leave little room for maneuvering after parking, making it difficult to transfer from a vehicle to a wheelchair or access stored items.

Poor Lighting: Dim garages create visibility issues, making it harder to navigate safely, especially for those with visual impairments.

Lack of Accessibility Features: Features like automatic door openers, grab bars, and lowered light switches are often absent in existing garages.

These challenges can turn a simple task like parking a car into a frustrating and even dangerous ordeal. It's time to rethink the garage and transform it from a potential obstacle course into an accessible and user-friendly space.

Why America's Garages Lag Behind

Several factors contribute to the lack of accessibility in American garages. Historically, building codes haven't always prioritized disability access in residential structures. Additionally, existing garages may not be easily retrofitted for accessibility due to space limitations or structural constraints. Finally, homeowners might not be aware of the need for accessible features or the potential solutions available.

Building a Better Garage: Design Solutions for Accessibility

The good news is, creating a user-friendly garage for everyone is achievable. Here's a breakdown of key design elements to consider:

Wide Doorways: Opt for wider garage doors (at least 3 feet wider than a standard car) to allow ample room for wheelchairs and other mobility aids.

Ramp Up the Accessibility: Eliminate thresholds by installing a level entry with a gentle ramp. This creates a smooth transition from the driveway to the garage floor.

Spacious Maneuvering: Plan for sufficient space around the parked vehicle to allow for comfortable transfer and movement. Consider a minimum of 5 feet of clearance on both sides of the car and at the front for easier access.

Let There Be Light: Ensure proper lighting throughout the garage, including bright overhead lights and strategically placed task lighting near the entrance and storage areas.

Smart Features, Big Impact: Install automatic door openers with wall-mounted or remote controls for effortless entry and exit. Additionally, consider grab bars near the entrance and next to the vehicle for additional support.

Think Low, Think Easy: Lower light switches, shelving, and control panels to make them readily accessible for everyone.

Beyond Building: Simple Tips for Accessibility

Even in existing garages, small adjustments can make a big difference. Here are some tips for improving accessibility:

Declutter and Organize: Keep the floor clear of clutter to create a safe and easy-to-navigate path. Organize stored items efficiently, leaving enough space for maneuvering.

Parking Strategically: Park strategically to maximize usable space around the vehicle. Consider parking closer to the side that best suits your needs (e.g., the side with the door leading to the house).

Assistive Tools: Utilize portable ramps to overcome small thresholds and grab bars for additional support when entering and exiting the vehicle.

Light it Up: Invest in portable lighting to enhance visibility and improve safety within the garage.

Fleximounts GL1: Storage Made Safe & Simple (Especially for PWDs!)

This innovative ceiling storage system lets you raise and lower items with a simple hand crank or power drill. No more ladder limbo! The GL1 prioritizes safety for everyone, including those with mobility limitations. Plus, a secure lock keeps your belongings safe and sound when not in use.

But the GL1 is more than just a lifting champ. It's a champion of accessibility too! The adjustable steel cables handle angled ceilings with ease, making it perfect for garages of all shapes and sizes. And with compatibility for common ceiling joist spacings (12", 16", 24"), the GL1 works in most homes.

Think beyond boxes! The GL1 can also lift heavier items like kayaks or car carriers using sturdy straps. It's your multi-tasking garage hero!

Here's what makes the GL1 a PWD-friendly champion:

Effortless operation: Hand crank or drill power - you choose!

Safety first: Sturdy lock keeps belongings secure.

Adjustable design: Handles angled ceilings with ease.

Installation breeze: Pre-assembled parts and foldable design make setup simple.

The GL1 boasts impressive features:

- Reaches heights up to 79 inches

- Holds up to 300 pounds

- Works with wood or concrete joists

- Safety is key! The GL1's lock secures your belongings, while dual wire ropes offer peace of mind.

So ditch the ladder and embrace the GL1. It's the perfect solution for organized storage, especially for those who prioritize safety and accessibility in their garage.

Benefits of Accessible Garages

Making garages accessible isn't just about compliance – it's about creating a space that fosters independence and dignity for everyone. This translates to a more comfortable home environment, increased safety, and a greater sense of freedom. Additionally, accessible garages can be beneficial for aging homeowners, individuals recovering from injuries, or those with temporary mobility limitations.

Making Inclusion the Standard

By incorporating accessibility into garage design and implementation, we can create homes that truly work for everyone. Whether you're building a new home or modifying an existing one, prioritizing accessibility in your garage is an investment in a more inclusive and user-friendly living space. Remember, small changes can have a big impact.

Taking Action: Resources for Accessibility

Feeling inspired to make your garage more accessible? Here are some resources to get you started:

The National Center for Universal Design: https://design.ncsu.edu/research/center-for-universal-design/ offers a wealth of information on creating accessible spaces.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Center: https://www.ada.gov/ provides guidelines and regulations regarding accessibility standards.

Your local building department: They can offer guidance on local codes and permits related to accessible renovations.

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