Historic Renovations Without Alterations


In the past, most buildings were not designed with accessibility in mind. As a result, many historic buildings or structures are inaccessible to disabled persons. However, since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, more attention is being given to the accessible design of homes, businesses, and public spaces, as well as to the accessibility of historic structures.

Building renovations, remodels, or additions are all subject to ADA regulations. According to the ADA, a minimum of 20% of the total construction cost must be dedicated to making the structure accessible. However, special considerations are given to historic properties, as, at the direction of a State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), any accessibility modification that will threaten or destroy the historic significance of a property may be abandoned for another solution. Fortunately, Ascension lifts offer non-invasive accessibility options for preserving the historic integrity of a location.

Altering Historic Property Features

Historic properties commonly feature steep terrain, large steps or staircases, as well as narrow doorways and corridors. For modification of any or more of these features, accommodating required clearances while avoiding demolition is often an issue.

There are four key considerations for the accessible modification of historic properties:

  • Historic material should be retained whenever possible;
  • Modifications should be appropriately sized to a historic property;
  • Modifications should be as unobtrusive; and, whenever possible,
  • Modifications should be reversible.


Ascension platform lifts provide ground-level access without the need for an instillation pit, so they can be installed anywhere without damaging historic materials, such as block, brick, wood, and others.


Ramps or elevators may require severe alteration of large areas to be properly installed. Such large scale modifications could be detrimental to a property’s historic significance. Conversely, Ascension lifts require minimal space for an ADA-compliant installation due to their small footprint.


Ascension platform lifts feature a low profile as well as clear side panels. These see-through panels maintain lines of sight, while also minimizing the visible lift frame. This makes each Ascension wheelchair lift visually unobtrusive when installed in or around a historic structure.


Ascension platform lifts were designed with portability in mind. As such, should a lift need to be removed and transported elsewhere, there will be no damage or permanent alteration left behind.

It should be noted that, before beginning any remodel, renovation, or new construction, you should always consult with your local code authority. Code requirements vary between jurisdictions but compliance is always necessary when construction is performed. Furthermore, there are rules pertaining to only historic properties. *Wheelchairlift.com provides a code outline pertaining to the use of platform lifts, with links to local agencies to help get you started. The National Historic Preservation Act can provide in depth information to the rehabilitation and preservation of historic locations.

For further information about Ascension lifts, contact a product specialist.

To learn about easy accessibility options anyone can do:

Read: 6 Overlooked ADA Compliances

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