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ATU590 – Ramp Doctor with Nate Davis

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Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Special Guest – Nate Davis – Founder and Owner – The Ramp Doctor
Ramp Doctor Website: www.therampdoctor.com

Live Well Mobility Website: www.livewellmobility.com

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—–Transcript Starts Here —–

Nate Davis:
This is Nate Davis, and I’m the founder of The Ramp Doctor. And this is your Assistive Technology Update.

Josh Anderson:
Hello, and welcome to your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs. I’m your host, Josh Anderson, with The INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana.

Josh Anderson:
Welcome to episode 590 of Assistive Technology Update, it’s scheduled to be released on September 16th, 2022. On today’s show we’re super excited to be talking ramps and home modification with the founder and owner of The Ramp Doctor, Nate Davis. He’s on to tell us about some of the cool things that they offer, as well as just talk about home modifications and helping people stay healthy and productive in their own homes.

Josh Anderson:
Please don’t forget if you ever would like to reach us, if you have a question, a comment, somebody who would make a great guest on our show, something you want to learn more about or need to know more about, any of those questions, we’re happy to take them. You can reach us at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org. Call our listener line at (317) 721-7124, or shoot us a line on Twitter @indataproject.

Josh Anderson:
Here at the show we love nothing more than to hear from you. But for now, let’s go ahead and get on with the show.

Josh Anderson:
Make sure to check out our sister podcast, Accessibility Minute, and AT FAQ, or Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions. If you’re super busy and don’t have time to listen to a full podcast, be sure to check out Accessibility Minute, our one minute long podcast that gives you just a little taste of something assistive technology based.

Josh Anderson:
Our other show is Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions, or AT FAQ. On Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions, Brian Norton leads our panel of, hm experts? Including myself, Velva Smith, and our own Tracy Castillo as we try to answer your assistive technology questions.

Josh Anderson:
Check out our sister shows, Accessibility Minute and AT FAQ, wherever you get your podcasts, now including Spotify and Amazon music. Listeners, over the last few months we’ve spent a lot of time talking about accessible transportation. While it’s always important to have an accessible way to get from place to place, it’s also very important to have an accessible place to come home to.

Josh Anderson:
Well, our guest today is Nate Davis from The Ramp Doctor, and he’s here to tell us about home modifications, and a lot of other great things. Nate, welcome to the show.

Nate Davis:
Thanks Josh. Thanks for having me.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah, I love this subject. I love talking about it. I love talking about all the cool things. But before we get into to kind of talking about The Ramp Doctor, home mods, Livewell Mobility and Modifications, could you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?

Nate Davis:
Absolutely. Start back, I’m a graduate at the University of Tennessee with both a bachelors and a master’s degree in engineering, and a master’s in business from the University of Tennessee as well. Worked in the corporate world for about 15 years through various engineering roles, product management roles, management roles.

Nate Davis:
And then about five years ago, my wife and I decided to branch out on our own, see if we could help people with disabilities and senior citizens age successfully in their own homes. So we started Livewell Mobility and Modifications in 2018.

Josh Anderson:
And you led me right into my next question. So tell us about Livewell Mobility and Modifications.

Nate Davis:
Yeah, so we are a home access and modifications company. We offer free home assessments. We provide modifications like widening doorways, we build ramps, we install stair lifts, we install home elevators. Basically anything that anybody needs to be able to stay comfortably in their own home. And that goes on to ceiling lifts, or floor or Hoyer lifts, anything that they need, we provide it. We’re a one-stop shop.

Nate Davis:
We’ve got a team of about 15 people, combination of construction workers that do the modifications and have an occupational therapist on our team. She’s cap-certified. She does a lot of our home assessments, evaluations for stair lifts and elevators. We’ve got a pretty well-rounded team for solving almost any access issue or modification issue in a home.

Josh Anderson:
I think that’s awesome. So I got to talk a little bit, or have you talk a little bit about the elevators. Just because whenever people think about elevators, they think about the big kind of box and everything. But I kind of, in looking through this, saw some different options. So tell us about the different kind of elevators available. Just because I think this is really neat, and most people don’t really know that these things are even out there.

Nate Davis:
Yeah, elevators are really neat. And when we got into it, I really didn’t know what was out there as well. The traditional home elevator is your, it looks like it’s behind a closet door. You open the closet door up, you’ve got an accordion door that you slide open, and you walk into the elevator and it takes you to the second or third floor.

Nate Davis:
Well that’s their traditional elevator, and we do provide those. But really the hot solution now is what we call through-the floor elevators. These are elevators that you do not need an elevator, or an elevator hoist way or shaft. You don’t need a pit in your foundation.

Nate Davis:
And basically, they get retrofit into a home. They only go two levels. That’s the downfall with them. But we open up a hole between the first and second floor, we frame it all in, and then this elevator gets installed. And it’s almost like beam me up, Scotty. This elevator goes, passes right through the floor into the second level.

Nate Davis:
And we call them through-the-floor elevators, and they are a growing trend. We are doing a lot of them, probably two to three a month right now.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, wow. Wow.

Nate Davis:
Amazing.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. When I first saw those I was like oh, this just, I guess for lack of a better term, opens up the door for so many folks that don’t maybe don’t have the space for kind of the old school elevator. Maybe a stair lift isn’t quite the right kind of use for them. So that’s really awesome. And I always loved just finding new things that I didn’t even know were kind of there.

Nate Davis:
The benefit, Josh, of the elevator; unlike stair lifts, where a lot of times when you go to sell your home the realtor is advising you to take out the stair lift, because it really doesn’t add value to the next homeowner. But the elevator does add value. It adds up to 10% to the value of the home.

Josh Anderson:
Nice.

Nate Davis:
And so you’re looking at a home, just throw rough numbers out, a $300,000 home. You put a home elevator in, now it’s worth $330,000. So the return on that investment is better than almost any home renovation you could possibly do. And with the aging Baby Boomers that are looking for homes that are accessible on two floors, it’s a great product to add to your home. It really is. No matter what age you are.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, for sure. Well, in these days, it’s hard to find just a one-level ranch. Those seem to be the popular thing that everybody buys. So being able to actually access something that you can actually purchase makes a huge difference.

Josh Anderson:
Well Nate before we get into talking about everything else, can you tell me, what does the process of a home modification look like?

Nate Davis:
For us, well, for us as a business, first of all, it’s helping people find us. It’s hard, any kind of marketing you do, you either pay money online or you pay money to get out into the community, or you have somebody out there trying to introduce yourself to the community, like senior centers or hospital systems.

Nate Davis:
But we get a lot of referrals from rehabilitation hospitals and skilled nursing facilities.

Josh Anderson:
Yes.

Nate Davis:
These are people that have, you maybe had a fall or an illness, or some other medical condition. And they are going through therapy so they can go home. And most, we’re in the Houston area, and most of the Houston area, rehab hospitals and skilled nursing facilities know about us. And so that person will be introduced to our company and what we do. And they usually make the first phone call to us and schedule, usually it’s a home assessment.

Nate Davis:
Sometimes they know exactly what they need, but oftentimes it’s a home assessment. We go out to the home and to evaluate it. Occasionally the occupational therapist that they’re working with at the clinic, they also will do a home evaluation and we will accompany that occupational therapist on the home evaluation.

Nate Davis:
Because we know what’s possible to do in a home.

Josh Anderson:
Sure.

Nate Davis:
They know what needs to be done for the patient. And so the two of us together, it really is a perfect fit. He’s like, “Well, we’d like to be able to widen that doorway.”

Nate Davis:
And we can say, “Well, that doorway is really difficult to widen because of X, Y, Z. What other alternative can we do to get him through around the house?”

Nate Davis:
So yeah, it starts with a home assessment. Usually we can schedule that within two or three days of the phone call.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. When it kind of comes to recommendations, we could fill probably three shows with all the things. And I know we kind of talked about them, but what are some standard kind of access issues that you really see folks needing? And I know it’s hard to generalize, but maybe the things that you see the most that people need help with being able to stay inside their home.

Nate Davis:
Yeah, it is hard to generalize because everybody is unique.

Josh Anderson:
Sure.

Nate Davis:
We will start with somebody that is, maybe went into the hospital as an abled-body person and they’re coming home in a wheelchair. And so, naturally, we need to figure out a way to get them in and out of the house easily. And so that would start with a ramp. Usually here in Houston, we have a lot of, we call them patio homes. Or, not a lot of steps to get in the front door.

Nate Davis:
And so usually it’s a threshold ramp to get into the front door. We’re Looking at bathroom safety. that’s primarily where we spend a lot of time, is how are you going to get into the toilet closet? How are you going to get into the shower or the bathtub? And we look at solutions there.

Nate Davis:
And we install a ton of grab bars. We probably install, gosh, somewhere, 2000 grab bars a year. So any given week we’re installing 30 or 40 grab bars.

Josh Anderson:
And yeah, that’s what I’ve heard from other home mod kind of folks, is definitely the grab bar is one of the biggest things. And if you really think about it, yeah, it is. Because of all the things you have to access, especially there kind of in the bathroom.

Josh Anderson:
Well, Nate, we had you on here to talk about a few different things. And in my introduction, we started talking about The Ramp Doctor. So tell me, what is this?

Nate Davis:
The Ramp Doctor, this started with an idea going back about three to four years ago. When we started the company, we were a small company. It was my wife and I, and I was doing a lot of modifications myself, until we grew to a point we could start hiring people to help.

Nate Davis:
And so when you’re out installing a ramp, like a threshold ramp, oftentimes it just doesn’t fit right. Because of the complex geometry of a front door step, let’s say. They’re not always completely vertical, they usually have some sort of a door threshold that is in combination of a step.

Nate Davis:
And when you try to put a ramp on it, they’re not real solid, they wobble. There’s gaps where wheelchair wheels could get stuck, or walker wheels could get stuck. And it just, they’re dangerous if you just try to install a standard round.

Nate Davis:
And so that was a problem that was always in the back of my mind. We’re always having to modify the ramp, or modify the doorway or the threshold to make it fit right. And it just creates a lot more work than is necessary. That was problem number one.

Nate Davis:
And then problem number two is, ramps are just heavy. They’re hard to move around. They’re clunky. And somebody had introduced me to, it was a foam ramp. It was going back three or four years ago. You can buy them online. But it’s a foam ramp.

Nate Davis:
And when I picked it up, it was lightweight. It was like, wow, this solves a lot of problems. But it’s only made in a wedge shape, so it only works with a flat kind of step. So it has a lot of drawbacks. And also, the ones on the market are not ADA compliance. So they’re a little bit steep. But those two things came together to form kind of The Ramp Doctor a couple years later.

Nate Davis:
So the foam ramps that were on the market, they were a little bit expensive, I felt like. And I was like, it’s just made of foam.

Josh Anderson:
Sure.

Nate Davis:
Foam should not be expensive. And so I started my way down to figure out how I can manufacture my own foam ramp. And tried iterations and iterations of trying to manufacture my own. And then also some new technology was being introduced on iPhones.

Nate Davis:
And this new technology, it’s related to the augmented reality technologies. But basically your phones today, when you take a photo, they know where your camera is in space when it takes that photo. And that information is stored in that file. And so there is some technology out there that allows you to be able to take photos, multiple photos of an object, and then combine those together and create a 3D model of that object, a real 3D model.

Nate Davis:
And so that’s the technology we’re using in The Ramp Doctor.

Josh Anderson:
Oh.

Nate Davis:
We are prescribing the perfect ramp. Basically, we have our customers take several pictures of their threshold or step. And then we take those pictures, create a 3D model. And then we custom make a ramp, mostly out of a expanded polymer or a foam. With a very hard-top surface, very elegantly coated so it matches your home.

Nate Davis:
But basically, when that ramp shows up your doorstep, it will fit like a glove. And that’s what The Ramp Doctor does. So there’s no modification to the ramp, no modification to the threshold. It is a perfect-fitting ramp when it shows up. And it’s lightweight, easy to move around.

Josh Anderson:
Nice. And then is it affixed, or do you move it? I mean, I guess if you’re putting it on your home, you’d probably affix it. Because you wouldn’t really probably need to move it, and custom made. So I guess I kind of maybe answered my own question on that one.

Nate Davis:
Yeah. You’d be surprised. It’s not fixed, so it’s just rest in place. You plop it down. The idea is that anybody can order a ramp and not need a company like LiveWell Mobility Modification to come out and measure for you. They don’t want to come out and install it. It just shows up on your doorstep, and it’s designed perfectly for your house. And so, because it fits so tightly to that thresholder step, it really doesn’t move much.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, true.

Nate Davis:
You can picture that, yeah.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah, for sure. It probably just kind of holds it in place. So that’s very, very cool and a great idea. And I know that is an issue for a lot of folks. Sometimes just finding someone available to build a ramp can be a real challenge, especially these days when everybody seems to be doing more home improvements and it’s hard to find contractors. So that is a great way for folks to be able to get in and out of their homes. And especially, like you said, with all the different, unique ways that they might have. So very, very cool.

Josh Anderson:
Well, and Nate, you also have been accepted into an idea to impact program out of the University of Pittsburgh. Can you tell us about this program?

Nate Davis:
Yeah. Well, first of all, I’d like to say Josh, how the assistance that we have gotten from our government sources.

Josh Anderson:
Oh wow.

Nate Davis:
We applied for and received both a grant from the NIDILRR, I’m probably going to get it wrong, but National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research, I think I got that right.

Josh Anderson:
I think so.

Nate Davis:
And So We Applied For An SBIR, Small Business Innovative Research Grant, and we were awarded the grant through NIDILRR. We also applied for a grant through the VA, and were awarded a grant from the VA as well. Developing the same product, basically. How we’re going to get these pictures, how are we going to, what’s the material of the ramp going to be made? How are we going to coat it, how are we going to keep it durable and strong? What that process looks like.

Nate Davis:
And so we were awarded two grants. And unfortunately we had to choose one or the other.

Josh Anderson:
Aw.

Nate Davis:
They wouldn’t allow us to take both because we were basically developing the same product with both the grants.

Josh Anderson:
Sure.

Nate Davis:
So we actually chose the VA grant, it was a little bit more money. But because we were accepted by the NIDILRR grant, we had an opportunity to join the Impact Center Development Program. It was a phenomenal experience for me.

Nate Davis:
I’ve already had my MBA, I’ve worked in the business world for many years. But I’ve not worked on a startup, per se, the way that they coach you to work on a startup. So you’re paired with several mentors, and you’re in there with other startup companies that are developing their own technologies or their own products.

Nate Davis:
And the coaching that you get week, after week, after week was … I didn’t have high expectation going into it, but I’m really, really thankful for what I got out of it. It was a great program.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, that’s awesome. Yeah, just having that assistance. Because like you said, you’ve got experience, you got an MBA, you’ve got all these things. But it’s one thing you haven’t really done before. So I’m sure there’s a lot of, oh, just things that you may not think of that may be coming up. So just having that guidance, and especially the one-on-one and being able to actually have mentorship, is always a huge help. Especially with any kind of new endeavor.

Nate Davis:
Absolutely, yeah.

Josh Anderson:
So Nate, you’ve been doing this a while. Can you tell me a story about a modification or maybe person you worked with that really sticks out in your mind? Something that maybe was a little outside the norm, or just really kind of worked great. And just something that maybe kind of sticks with you from the work that you’ve been doing.

Nate Davis:
I’ll tell you, almost on a monthly basis we get delighted by our customers or our clients. Because we absolutely change their lives. And that’s really the joy of being in this business that we’re in. But I’ll give you example with The Ramp Doctor. So we’ve been producing some, I would say early production ramps, as we’ve been testing different materials and different coatings.

Nate Davis:
And we do some ramps for the VA here in Houston as a subcontractor for another primary contractor. And this gentleman had already had an aluminum folding ramp on his front door step, but he just did not like it. It was too steep, it was clangy. When you roll over an aluminum ramp, it makes a lot of noise. And it got hot in the sun, the sun would heat it up.

Nate Davis:
And so he was asking the VA for something better. And so the VA reached out to us and we said, hey, we have this new product. The ramp that we call, we called the ramps, The Ready Ramp.

Nate Davis:
But we had this new Ready Ramp product. Would you care if we gave it a shot? And so we went out and took the pictures that we would’ve normally asked a customer to take. But we took the pictures ourselves, brought them back to our warehouse and manufactured this ramp for them, took it back to them. And we installed it, it fit perfectly the very first time, no modifications, laid right in place. It was a pretty tan color, so it kind of blended in with his house.

Nate Davis:
And I called him about a week later. And that was one thing The Impact Program encourages us, is to have lots of interviews with lots of customers or potential stakeholders. And so he was one of my interviews. And I called him up and asked him, so tell me about the ramp. And he said, “Nate, this ramp, it’ll change my life.” He said, “It’s so wonderful.”

Nate Davis:
I said, “Really? What’s so great about it?”

Nate Davis:
He said, “I don’t know, it’s hard to describe. One, it looks really good. But it’s just, it’s soft. It feels good when you go up and down it.”

Nate Davis:
And I said, “What do you…” He said, I didn’t expect that response. And I said, “What do you mean, it feels good?”

Nate Davis:
He said, “Those metal ramps get really hot, and they’re hard on your feet.” And he said, “Well, I go in and out of my house without shoes on. It feels good on my feet. It feels comfortable.” And I didn’t expect that at all.

Nate Davis:
And so, I just didn’t realize the number of people that maybe are utilizing a wheelchair, but still use their feet to maneuver around their homes. And now they have this really elegant, call it comfortable ramp that they can go up and down on. Without it being made of wood or made of metal, now it’s a comfortable ramp.

Nate Davis:
Yeah, he was so supportive. The gentleman offered to do whatever he could to support our company and our growth. And offered to provide interviews, whatever we needed. He was really delighted about the ramp.

Josh Anderson:
I love it. And I love it whenever you find out that it’s helping people in ways you didn’t even know. Like you said, comfortable probably isn’t a word you would’ve ever used to describe a ramp. But now it actually does make a difference.

Josh Anderson:
And yeah, I’ve used all the aluminum, the carbon fiber ramps for short-term accommodations for folks. And I mean, I’m not the one in the wheelchair, but they’re a little scary. Just because, the noise and everything. And so I can definitely see how that can make a huge difference. And just think about the whole world you probably opened up for all the times that, well, I’ll go out and get the mail. Or, well, I’ll go out and do this. Nah, I don’t really want to go mess with the ramp.

Josh Anderson:
So now you’ve opened up that door and made it a whole lot easier for them to do that. So that is absolutely awesome.

Josh Anderson:
Well, Nate, what’s next?

Nate Davis:
Well, so I would say we finalize the design of the ramp, now. We are going to offer it, to start, with three different colors. In a tan color, a gray color, kind of looks like concrete, and then a dark brown color. Like a dark brown stained is what it looks like.

Nate Davis:
Because we’re custom making these ramps, we could technically custom make any color you wanted. So it could match the front of your house, it could match your driveway, whatever it is. But we’re trying to start with three different colors to start. And we are launching our website.

Nate Davis:
Well, it’s in development right now. Should be out any day now. So if you go to therampdoctor.com, it should be live. You’ll be able to purchase the ramp. And it instructs somebody on how to take the photos, what angles, it kind of walks you through that process. It should be very simple. And so we are, we’re really going to just push it out there and see how customers respond.

Nate Davis:
We’re trying to focus initially in the Houston market, because that way we can provide a superior level of service since we’re here. And if that there’s an issue, we can catch it early on and fix it. But yeah, we’re going to start in the Houston market and then we’re going to expand over the next 60 to 90 days throughout the United States.

Josh Anderson:
Awesome.

Nate Davis:
And then we’re also trying to figure out how to get it onto Amazon. A lot of our customers that want to go buy a ramp, the first place they go is Amazon to buy it.

Josh Anderson:
Sure.

Nate Davis:
And we want to be on that marketplace to be able to offer the ramps there. But because we’re a custom product, the customers have to upload photos in order to get the ramp, there’s some complexity there. But Amazon does have the ability to do that. We just, we’re working on getting the right space on Amazon. It’s called Amazon Custom. They have a product line that allows you to upload photos. And we’re hoping that we can use that to enter into our development process.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. That will be, yeah, that’ll be great. That’ll open up the door for even more folks to be able to kind of access it. And I got to admit, I did not know that Amazon had a custom spot, so I learned even more new today. So that is great.

Josh Anderson:
Well, you mentioned to this a little bit, Nate. But just so our listeners kind of remember, what’s the best way for them to find out more?

Nate Davis:
Probably the best way is the website, www.therampdoctor.com. And right now we are going to be offering the Ready Ramp, but we do expect to expand into additional ramps down the road. We know the Ready Ramp, it won’t be perfect for everybody. There are some really just tricky thresholds and steps that, it may not be the right solutions. So we want to provide other solutions that may help them.

Nate Davis:
I think one thing that makes The Ramp Doctor unique is that almost all of our solutions will be custom made for them. So even if they are going to buy, maybe if we offered aluminum ramp, it will be coated a certain color. So those are, down the road that’s what I see as where we see we’re going, is to offer a ramp solution for every situation.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. We’ll put a link to that down in the show notes. Well, Nate Davis, thank you so much for coming on today and telling us just a lot about home mods, and a whole lot about The Ramp Doctor and the Ready Ramp. And I can’t wait to see it in-person and then see how it all kind of works. So thank you again.

Nate Davis:
Thanks Josh. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.

Josh Anderson:
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on an assistive technology update? If so, call our listener line at (317) 721-7124. Send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org, or shoot us a note on Twitter @indataproject.

Josh Anderson:
Our captions and transcripts for the show are sponsored by the Indiana Telephone Relay Access Corporation, or INTRAC. You can find out more about INTRAC at relayindiana.com.

Josh Anderson:
A special thanks to Nicole Prieto for scheduling our amazing guests and making a mess of my schedule. Today’s show was produced, edited, hosted, and fraught over by yours truly.

Josh Anderson:
The opinions expressed by our guests are their own, and may or may not reflect those of the Indata Project, Easterseals Crossroads, our supporting partners or this host.

Josh Anderson:
This was your Assistive Technology Update, and I’m Josh Anderson with the Indata Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. We look forward to seeing you next time. Bye-bye.

 

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