She Loved Her Shower… Except For The Wheelchair Ramp

August 30, 2023
Case Study

These Gettysburg Homeowners LOVED
Their Wheelchair-Accessible Shower…
Except For The Ramp

The First Ramp Was Too Steep, So We Went Back
To The Drawing Board & Designed A Completely
Custom Low-Sloped Ramp.

At Focal Point Remodeling, there’s no such thing as “one size fits all” for accessible bathroom and kitchen design. Our Design Consultants are experts at assessing individual living situations to develop solutions that meet each specific homeowner’s needs.

When you meet with your Design Consultant, they will take a personal approach to your consultation that includes…

  • Discussing precisely what you want to achieve with your accessible remodel
  • Asking pertinent questions about your lifestyle
  • Thoroughly assessing your home to determine the best way to improve its accessibility within your budget

Most importantly, your Design Consultant does this while putting themselves in your shoes. It’s how they anticipate and eliminate the design choices that won’t work for your situation.

On 99 out of 100 projects, this approach works perfectly. The final result is exactly what the homeowner needs to have an easier, happier, more comfortable home life.

For those rare 1 out of 100 exceptions, an unexpected complication pops up after the installation—one not even Nostradamus could have predicted. It’s an issue that forces us to reassess, recalibrate, and reconfigure an aspect of the remodel.

Here’s a story about one of those times…

Designing Sally & Joe’s Accessible Bathroom Remodel

Sally and Joe live in Gettysburg. They’re in their late 70s, and they’ve been happily married for decades.

Sally called us because they needed a more accessible bathing space. Joe is in a wheelchair and tended to by a personal care aide, so the couple was looking to do the following in their bathroom:

  1. Install a walk-in bathtub
  2. Design and build a wheelchair-accessible walk-in shower big enough to fit Joe, his wheelchair, and his aide

This would give Joe options. He could choose between a luxurious soak in his walk-in tub or a relaxing shower with the help of his aide.

As part of our Focal Point FAMILY Process, we sat down with Sally and Joe to design their perfect bathroom remodel. Naturally, the design consultation centered around what was best for Joe. What would make Joe’s bathing experience easy? How could we improve Joe’s overall comfort and home life?

By all accounts, we developed the perfect bathroom design for Sally and Joe. Here’s the shower we installed for them:

Large walk-in shower with bench seat, grab bar, and recessed shelves

Sally was over the moon about the results. It was Mission Accomplished.

Or so we thought.

The day after installation, we returned to Sally and Joe’s to close out the project… and Sally’s satisfaction had taken a U-turn.

An Unforeseen “Uphill Battle”

To explain Sally’s change in mood, we need to go back to the design phase.

For Joe’s wheelchair-accessible shower remodel, we chose products from Onyx Collection. In addition to manufacturing top-notch bathroom materials, they offer a wide variety of excellent accessibility solutions.

One of these solutions is a wheelchair ramp for walk-in showers. Here’s what one looks like:

Illustration of a shower ramp next to a shower pan

These ramps come in different lengths, heights, and pitches. For Sally and Joe’s shower, we chose the ramp shown in the image above, which runs 4.5 inches from the shower base to the bathroom floor. This would give Sally and Joe a wheelchair-accessible shower while allowing them plenty of room to maneuver in their bathroom.

Here’s a photo of the finished product:

Short wheelchair ramp leading into a large walk-in shower

As you can see, the ramp left room for ample floor space. A sensible design solution, right?

Here was the problem: Joe’s aide could not push the wheelchair up the ramp. It was too steep for her!

When Sally told us about the issue, we immediately sprang into action to make things right. We were absolutely, positively going to make things right as fast as humanly possible.

Back To The Drawing Board

Because of the layout of the bathroom, replacing the ramp wasn’t as simple as swapping it for one with a lower pitch. The ramp had to allow for enough floor space to maneuver, and none of Onyx Collection’s standard ramp sizes fit the bill.

So we did what we always do to make things right: whatever it takes.

We worked with Onyx Collection’s drafting team to develop a 100% custom shower ramp—one that fit Sally’s bathroom AND would allow Joe’s aide to push his wheelchair into the shower.

Here is how we altered the ramp design:

  • We created a longer ramp so we could reduce the incline. This would make it easier for Joe’s aide to push his wheelchair up the ramp.
  • We had the ramp extend outward enough to stretch past the doorway of the bathroom. We also added angles to the sides. This would give Joe’s aide the ability to push the wheelchair up the ramp directly from the bathroom entrance.
  • Finally, we made sure the ramp was still short enough to allow the necessary floor space for walking.

As soon as we received the new ramp from Onyx Collection, we rushed to Sally and Joe’s to install it.

Here is the final result:

Low-sloped bathroom wheelchair ramp leading into a large walk-in shower

Here’s a close-up of side angles on the new ramp:

Low-sloped shower wheelchair ramp abutting the bathroom door entryway

And here is Sally giving the new ramp her formal stamp of approval:

Gettysburg Pennsylvania Walk In Shower Wheelchair Ramp Bench Seat Focal Point Remodeling

This time, it truly was Mission Accomplished.

How This Project Improved Our Processes

The question that’s probably on your mind: Why didn’t we anticipate the difficulties Joe’s aide would have with the first ramp?

Here’s the honest truth…

We’ve installed that exact ramp in dozens and dozens of bathrooms. It’s never given a homeowner a problem, so we’d have never predicted it being an issue for Sally and Joe.

But as we said earlier, EVERYONE’S situation is different. Because of that, there is always a chance (no matter how tiny) of the unforeseen, unanticipated, or unpredictable occurring. This can include a detail as small as who is going to be pushing a wheelchair up a shower ramp.

Since Sally and Joe’s project, we’ve updated our Design Consultation process. When there is a ramp involved, we consider the strength and capabilities of those who will be using it. “Always Be Improving” is one of our core tenets.

Accountability: It’s Our Calling Card

It’s easy for any remodeler to talk about how great they are… how they do everything right… and how they deliver flawless results on every job. But the reality is that no one is perfect 100% of the time—not even a Pennsylvania or Maryland home remodeler with hundreds of over-the-moon customers (*wink, wink*).

That’s why we think it’s important to tell you about the projects where everything goes right… and the projects where things don’t. The truth is that our accessible bathroom and kitchen designs hit the bullseye 99 times out of 100. But for those 1 out of 100 exceptions (the ones not even Nostradamus can predict), we bend over backwards to make things better than right.

The bottom line: At Focal Point Remodeling, accountability is unyielding, unwavering… and absolutely, positively unconditional.

End. Of. Story.

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