Making Historic Buildings Accessible

On a recent episode of WOSU’s All Sides with Anna Staver experts in historic preservation discussed the difficulty in making historic buildings fully accessible. Typically these challenges come from a  combination of lack of space and desire to not alter the historic character of the exterior. One of the first issues to consider is getting someone in a wheelchair from their car to the building entry, which typically involves restriping to provide a van-accessible parking space with signage and a curb ramp. Making an entrance accessible can involve, generally from most to least expensive: a new addition with an at-grade entry, a wheelchair ramp with 12” of length for every inch of height plus landings, an exterior mechanical lift, or a portable wheelchair lift. Although the last option is the least expensive and requires the least alteration of historic buildings, it does not allow the person in a wheelchair to enter the building without assistance. Once inside the building, we have to provide restrooms with space for a 60” wheelchair turn radius, provide at least 32” of clear space at door openings, and provide an elevator or lift to access multiple floors, among other items.

Hardlines Design Company has designed several accessibility solutions to meet different needs and budgets.

Left: A wheelchair ramp designed for Newark Resident Homes, where the ramp landing incorporates a deck for the residents. Right: Side elevation of the Davis-Shai House where a wheelchair ramp provides access to the new elevator, whose shaft is tucked discreetly at the juncture of the gable roofs.
Stewart Elementary School with new ramp and steps to doors at the addition and historic building from the parking lot and parent drop-off to the left.
A separate ramp at the right provides access to the cafeteria in the lower level.