Preserve Common Areas from Wheelchair Damage
Q: Several community members, and, occasionally some guests, use wheelchairs. Because of the size and design of some of the common areas, the walls have been dented, paint has been scratched on the walls and doors, and corners and doorways have been nicked. There has also been damage to carpets and wood floors from wheelchairs. It has been expensive to repair wall and floor damage caused by those wheelchairs to the common areas. What can I do to prevent this damage?
A: Fortunately, by installing a few inexpensive devices, you can prevent most of this damage. Have your maintenance staff install these devices to protect the three parts of common areas that most frequently take abuse from wheelchairs:
Doors. Kick plates are protective panels, often made of stainless steel. They go on the lower half of doors, where footrests are likely to hit. Depending on their size and type of material, they start in price under $10. Corner guards protect the corners from being nicked by wheelchairs. These are plastic, vinyl, or metal strips designed to fit on protruding 90-degree corners. Prices range from $20 for 10 four-foot plastic or vinyl strips, to up to $60 each for more expensive metal guards.
Walls. Wall guards are plastic, vinyl, or metal strips or panels that attach to walls to protect them from damage by wheelchairs. Prices range from $30 to $80, depending on the size and type of material.
Floors. Floor mats are plastic, vinyl, or rubber mats, sometimes clear, designed to cover wood flooring or carpeting and protect it from wheel damage. Prices vary widely—depending on size, quality, material, safety features, cushioning, and other factors—from perhaps as little as $20 to several thousand dollars for commercial-quality mats. But be careful: Floor mats that are installed by entryways can be dangerous for people with disabilities. For example, people using walkers can trip over them. So if you do use floor mats, make sure you purchase only high-quality, appropriately sized mats that grip the floor, allow easy transition on and off them, and are firm enough for wheelchairs to maneuver on them.
Be aware that attractive, nonindustrial devices aren't easy to find. Try checking with local hospital supply companies or maintenance distributors. And when you order these devices, find out if they come with assembly or installation instructions so your maintenance staff can install them properly.
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