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  • Writer's pictureClaire Wellbeloved-Stone

Adding Wheelchair Access to Existing Buildings

Portable Ramps

Occasionally while traveling, both in the United States and abroad, I’ve noticed signs with a bell to request a wheelchair ramp. In places where the building is old or historic, a portable ramp that can be stored while not in use is a great solution. Increasing the accessibility of old and historic buildings can seem daunting because of the cost or the permits that need to be acquired to make modifications, but portable ramps provide an easy and affordable solution. These ramps allow for businesses to increase their accessibility without making permanent modifications to their building. A review of different types of portable ramps can be found here.

One of the places where I noticed signs for these ramps the most was in Tulle, France. In a city where the cathedral was built from the 12th to13th century, many buildings do not have accessibility incorporated into their original architecture.


Another, more permanent, option to increase accessibility when there isn’t an elevator is a stair lift. There are a variety of types of stairlifts and choosing the proper one depends on your needs. A wheelchair platform lift allows for access to individuals who cannot get out of their chairs, unlike chair lifts that require the user to transfer from their wheelchair to the chair lift. An example of a wheelchair platform lift can be seen here. This lift provided access to the pedestrian subway that went under the busy road in Lisbon, Portugal. Similar to the portable ramps, these stairlifts are a modification that allows for increased access to spaces without accessibility features built into their original infrastructure.

Increasing Access

Increasing access to an old or historic building may seem daunting, but there are several resources available to make this process easier. Historic England has put together some very useful resources for those who wish to improve access to historic locations. PDFs of their guides focused on Easy Access to Historic Buildings and Easy Access to Historic Landscapes are available for download. Make sure to also check out our page of business resources here on Blue Trunk for more information.


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