Mike Cleary has installed more than 100 metal ramps for Disability access in residences (as well as in commercial buildings) since launching his own business two years ago.
“I grew up assisting an uncle who suffered a spinal cord injury as a teenager,” Cleary said. “Later in life, my oldest child was born with cerebral palsy and cognitive Impairment. I have a very strong empathy for people with disabilities.”
American Ramp Systems was founded in 1998 as a division of Gordon Industries Inc., a Boston-based manufacturer of metal architectural products. The ramps are available for sale or rental.
American Ramp Systems began franchising in 2002. Twenty-eight franchises are operating from Connecticut to Colorado.
The company’s ramps are modular and can be installed easily and then disassembled quickly, Cleary said. Because the ramps do not require any modification of the building structure to be installed, it isn’t necessary to obtain permits for them, he said.
Cleary said the company’s market includes four key segments: home health care, aging individuals, children with disabilities and rental opportunities. The company serves clients who have just experienced a medical trauma or who have pre-existing needs. All ramps are customizable and meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Our ramps help improve the quality of life for individuals with special needs,” Cleary said. “There are so many barriers they encounter in society; it’s amazing how something as simple as a ramp can help.”
An average ramp, purchased and installed, runs about $4,000. An average rental ramp runs about $400 a month.
Cleary knows firsthand just how big of an impact a ramp can have on a person’s life.
“When I was a teenager, helping my uncle who was a quadriplegic, I would lift him from his bed to his wheelchair and from the wheelchair into a car,” he said. “To make his life easier, I helped convert an old postal van into something we could get his wheelchair in.
“And I made a portable ramp out of wood planks to get him in and out of the house,” he said. “And in my travels with my uncle all across the country, we came across many places that were not wheelchair accessible. It was frustrating for both my uncle and me. Little did I know that I was developing a passion for a business that I would start 30 years later.”
Cleary estimated that 35 percent of his local business for American Ramp Systems have been rentals, with about 70 percent of people renting for no more than two months.
While he has dozens of stories about grateful clients, one sticks out in his mind more than others.
“After Hurricane Katrina, a woman and her elderly father moved to Chicago to live with her son,” he said. “The woman’s father was in a wheelchair and her son’s home was not wheelchair accessible. I was able to install a ramp for the gentleman in a day. When they moved to another home in Chicago, they took the ramp with them,” said Cleary, who donated the ramp to the family.
In addition to wheelchair ramps, Cleary also provides other equipment for people with disabilities, such as stair lifts, vertical platform lifts and lift-and-transfer devices.
“My disabled daughter inspired me to start a business that could help people,” Cleary said. “I realized that I could help people by giving them more mobility in their existing homes.”
American Ramp Systems, (630) 399-6137, www.americanramp.com.
BUILDER HELPS SELL OLD HOME
A Chicago area home-building company has introduced a new program to help buyers sell their existing home.
Under the plan, buyers at any Lakewood Homes development can receive a free Competitive Market Analysis of their existing home, tips on making their home ready for resale, and (if they decide to list their home with a Lakewood preferred broker) a competitive commission rate from the broker.
“Since the home-selling market has shifted this past year to a buyers market, one of the biggest concerns of customers who are purchasing a new home is how fast their existing home will sell,” said Robin Johnson, vice president of sales for Lakewood Homes. “Our customers don’t want to be in the situation where they’re paying two mortgages.”
The broker also will give them an estimate on how long the home might take to sell and how many homes are for sale in their neighborhood. Buyers have no obligation to utilize the broker’s services in order to receive the market analysis and recommendations.
Lakewood Homes. For more information, visit any Lakewood sales center, or call (847) 884-8800.
BY BILL CUNNIFF
Real Estate Reporter