By and large, the world is challenging for wheelchairs. In public settings in the US, new construction and renovations must conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which specifies ramps, elevators, and 5-foot turning diameters to make the buildings accessible to everyone. But private homes aren’t bound by the same standards. That means many people faced with mobility impairments come home to entry stairs, tight bathrooms, and other hazards that may cost a fortune to retrofit.
Enter the Wheel Pad. Designed as a temporary extension of an existing house, the Wheel Pad has a bedroom and bathroom with ADA-standard clearances, a Hoyer lift track built into the ceiling, an entry ramp, and a door to connect the unit to an adjacent house. All this comes in an ultramodern 200-square-foot package on wheels. It’s a novel use of the tiny house concept, and in hindsight a pretty obvious one. Why did it take so long for someone to market this?
That “someone” is a group of architecture students and professors at Norwich University. The prototype Wheel Pad went to a southern Vermont woman who recently became paralyzed from the chest down, and future units will be sold for $60,000 or leased for $3000/month. Since a unit is highway legal, it qualifies as an RV for zoning purposes. A septic tank is built in; water and electrical supply come from the existing house.
Physical access to the existing house is unclear, although the Wheel Pad website says illustrations are available for buyers. Can the entire unit be lifted higher or lower to match an existing door, or must a driveway be built to the correct height? (Settlement could make the latter pretty untenable for long-term accommodation.)