April 23, 2007

CONTACT: Mary Lynn Williams 908-527-4346


Union County Chosen by State
to Pilot New Program for the Disabled

Elizabeth-Freeholder Chairwoman Bette Jane Kowalski announced today that Union County has been chosen as a pilot site for the Modular Ramp and Long-Tread, Low-Riser Step Program.

The new program will provide access to individuals with disabilities whose primary residence is currently inaccessible. The primary residence can be either a private home or apartment.

Union County is one of two counties chosen by the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Disability Services, to pilot the program. Middlesex County was also selected as a pilot site.

“For many people with disabilities, a home wheelchair access ramp can mean the difference between being ‘shut-in’ and having the opportunity to live an active, productive and independent life,” Chairwoman Kowalski said.

The modular ramps and steps meet all New Jersey construction code requirements for residential use. The unique modular design of the ramps and long-tread, low-riser steps allows the components to be manufactured off-site, transported to the individual’s home and then assembled.

Since permanent concrete footings are not required, the modular ramps and steps can be installed year-round. The modular design also makes recycling possible. For example, if a person with a modular ramp or steps moves to an accessible apartment building and no longer needs the modular ramp or steps, the units can be disassembled and the components used to provide access at another individual’s home.

For people who use crutches, walkers or canes for mobility, long-tread, low-riser steps are an easier, safer alternative to a ramp. The large level tread area on each step allows easy walker use, and the riser's short height makes stepping up and down easier than standard steps. Balance is easier to maintain on flat steps than on a sloped surface. Another advantage is the steps require less space than a ramp.

To be eligible for the Modular Ramp and Long-Tread, Low-Riser Step Program, applicants must have a disability that significantly impairs or limits mobility; be a resident of Union or Middlesex Counties; be a New Jersey resident for at least six months; live in a primary residence that is not currently accessible; be at least 16 years of age; and, have liquid assets of less than $100,000. In addition, applicants must be either employed, seeking employment outside the home or attending traditional or vocational school, or volunteering for the purpose of obtaining future employment.

The Modular Ramp and Long-Tread, Low-Riser Step Program was funded by a grant from the Henry H. Kessler Foundation. Other partners involved in the program include the Edison Job Corp.; Cerebral Palsy of New Jersey; the New Jersey Institute of Technology; the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs; New Jersey Protection and Advocacy; the Middlesex County Office for the Disabled; and, the Union County Office for the Disabled.

For more information or to obtain an application, call the Division of Disability Services toll-free at 1-888-285-3036 or the Union County Office for the Disabled at 908-527-4807.