November 25th, 2012 by Peggy Farabaugh
When expanding, small retail businesses in Vermont often consider historically significant spaces such as downtown buildings or old farmhouses. ADA compliance is a major factor in determining the feasibility of such a move. Entrepreneurs should seek the advice of an architect or other professional during the earliest stages of planning.
Because many small businesses in Vermont are starting to consider expansion these days, I thought I’d share some of our experience with ADA Compliance at Stonehurst, our future Fine Furniture Gallery. In working with Jeremy Coleman + Company Architects and Bob Furlone of American Construction we’ve explored several alternatives to accommodating customers with disabilities. At first I began to call Jeremy Coleman “Dr. No”. He nixed every idea I had on layout and flow, because they weren’t ADA compliant. The codes aren’t intuitively obvious for a newcomer, but eventually I caught on.
The main challenge we have is that our 200 year old farmhouse sits 2 feet lower than the adjacent horse barn. Our plan is to connect the two buildings and transform them into a furniture showroom. But how will a person in a wheelchair be able to go from one building to the next?
We thought about a ramp, but there’s not enough room (a ramp cannot have more than 1″ rise in height per foot of length so that’s 24′ of ramp). Then we considered a 2′ high elevator lift, but it took up too much floor space and added $30,000 to our cost. Finally our builder, Bob Furlone suggested lowering the floor in the horse barn. It’s going to involve some excavating but we all feel it’s the best way to go.
We’re excited that soon we’ll be better able to accommodate the customers who contact us looking for customized furniture designed for wheelchair access. We’ve modified our dining tables many times by increasing the table height so a wheelchair can fit under the apron. Now those customers can come see us in person and enjoy the view of Vermont’s Green Mountain Forest while shopping comfortably from their wheelchair.
Stonehurst is still in the planning stages, while we wait for our Act 250 and other permits to be approved by the state of Vermont. After that happens, we’ll have a ground breaking ceremony and start digging. Stay tuned for more progress reports or follow us on Facebook for updates.