So far in the past few weeks, we have concentrated on discussing possible solutions to the problem of using walkers to climb up and down the stairs. In the regions where snowfalls are expected in the winter, most houses are built with the entrance steps to raise the floor level above ground. Some houses have the entrance stairs having as many as five or six steps, while most houses have two or three steps to enter through the front door. Obviously, the height of the stairs depends on the terrain the house is built on and the design to accommodate the house.

So far, I have gotten many requests from persons, who are mildly balance-impaired due to his/her age and/or some ailments, that they would like to be able to use their walkers to climb up or down the front stairs. This is a reasonable request from their viewpoints as they wish to be as independent in their life as possible without having to rely on someone else to assist them. A lady wrote in stating that her daughter lives about 10 minutes away. But she feels bad to have to call her to get her to help in going outside and coming back in the house every time she wishes to breathe fresh air by walking outside.

We discussed three solutions at the end of May. One was to develop a stair climber/walker combination, second was a ramp and the third was a hydraulic lift. Of three solutions, the ramp was most sensible. However, further study revealed that the law ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) defines certain specifications as its guideline. The slope needs to be 1:12, meaning each one inch of rise must be covered with one foot set back. If your front entrance stair has four 7-inch risers (four steps), the ramp must be minimum of 28-feet long. Many homes do not have that large an area in the front to accommodate the ramp. Although it is a secondary importance, the enormous ramp size would create an architecturally difficult issue to harmonize with the house.

Meanwhile, such a ramp would cost money. The standard estimate according to an experienced contractor John McCormack of New Castle, N.H., one must budget anywhere from $150 to $250 per linear foot of ramp. A 28-foot ramp would cost somewhere between $4,200 to $7,000. That is rather significant expense for a fixed-income person in Aging in Place. The magnitude of the expense would probably terminate any discussion for a ramp.

As I was just concluding this ramp design issue, inventor Jud Pitman of Portsmouth, N.H., called me. He stated that he had quickly built a conceptual prototype of a walker that could help its user climb up or down the stair, and he could demonstrate it for me. I immediately accepted his offer. I was happy that the very purpose of this column is to call on everybody in America to invent for causes. And this is just happening.

In the morning of June 20th, Pitman showed up at our meeting place, Ceres Bakery of Penhallow Street, Portsmouth. After a few minutes of pleasantries, he asked me to step outside for his demo. We found a cement stair leading to the next brick office building entrance. There he opened his canvas bag and pulled out an ordinary walker.

This one is equipped with wheel on each front support leg, but functionally that is not essential. The crux of the invention is the front leg folds forward to result in reducing the front height by adjustable height matched to the riser height (the height of the step).

This prototype demonstrates this inventor’s concept clearly, and I’d value his concept and prototype execution as Class “A” performance achievement. If we succeed in encouraging another 100,000 inventors just like this one, I have no doubt an American Renaissance would happen.

Previously we have discussed a solution using a hydraulic lift attached to the side of front stairs. That is another viable solution and probably less expensive than building ramp according to ADA standards. Go to Google and search Hydraulic Lift (Scissor Lift), and there are many vendors listing literally hundreds of lifts on their websites. Their prices start at around $1,500. Installation may cost you additional $1,000, but this is an excellent solution for medium to heavily balance-impaired person. Since the use isn’t very frequent, you would be able to buy a used lift that is much less expensive than a new unit. By using the hydraulic lift, the user needs not to walk down a perilous and slippery ramp, or wet or icy stairs. All he/she needs to do is to stand with walker and push the button either up or down. Again, the main shortcoming is when power fails. But, if a storm causes power failure, you are better off staying inside.

This week concludes the chapter of how to overcome stairs when you must use walker. The least expensive solution is a modified walker just proposed by Pitman. Second is the hydraulic lift attached to the side of the front stair. The third is a ramp built according to ADA rules, which is the most expensive.

We welcome the Victor Valley Daily Press to our syndicate. Let’s us raise American consciousness that we are the most advanced nation in the world and we will rise like a Phoenix to create another era of high-tech manufacturing kingdom.

Shintaro "Sam" Asano was named by MIT in 2011 as one of the top 10 most influential inventors of the 20th century. He lives on the seacoast of New Hampshire with his dog Sophie. You can write to Sam at sasano@americaninventioninstitute