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I live in a cooperative living group, and during the fall semester a person who we'd invited to live with us who is a dwarf and relies on a scooter for most of his transportation decided he'd like to move in. Unfortunately, while he can get out of his scooter and come inside by himself, we had no stepless entrances such that he could bring his scooter inside to protect it from the angry Cambridge winter. Mmm, frozen batteries.

So, we're a coop and we maintain the house ourselves--so we decided to build one, of course. A ramp up to the back porch! Nevermind the fact that we need to sink four-foot foundation holes in the ground in January.

We got started right away at the beginning of IAP, while people were still trickling back into town from all over the country.

First we surveyed out where the posts should be sunk:

Then it was time for excavating the holes where concrete would eventually be poured. This involved a power auger of DOOM:

It's advertised as a 2-man tool. Two 200-pound construction workers, that is. We had to put four people on it plus one person with a shovel clearing dirt to make it manageable, and even then it was a pain. There's a delicate rhythm you have to get into to avoid getting the bit stuck--DOWN. UP. CLEAR. And inevitably there are rocks and roots that have to be dealt with.

We lucked out with a fairly warm weekend to do the digging on, but on the first day we still had to deal with a couple inches of frozen ground:

There was also some fun stuff involving having to clear away our (frozen) mulch containers and use a concrete cutter on a weird old concrete pathway that used to run through the same area:

Next we mixed and poured concrete:

And placed hardware in the concrete to hold the posts:


Eventually it became functional, woo:

And done! (except for metal handrail):

This all took place over the course of about three weeks. And now our scooter-bound housemate can bring his wheels inside! The house still isn't totally accessible to wheelchairs/scooters, but at least the first floor is. It really brings me pride to see things like this go from start to finish here. We can do it! This guy who is moving in has really influenced my life--he's really good at making people feel comfortable talking to him, and for me it's gone from "wow this is awkward, I have no idea what to say" to "talking to a person with different physical abilities and characteristics seems normal". And that's made me a better person.

Posted Tue Jan 29 21:53:00 2008 Tags: tags/accessibility