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7 On Your Side: County compels 91-year-old woman to tear down home wheelchair ramp

Wheelchair Ramp Pkg_frame_2641.jpg

Prince George’s County filed a legal case against a Laurel couple in their 90s over a wheelchair ramp in their own home. To avoid legal trouble, the elderly couple’s son tore down the ramp, trapping the woman in her own home. The county permitting department said the family had no permit to build a wheelchair ramp in front of their own home.

"I don't want my husband trying to lift me now," said 91 year old Evelyn Strahle.

Evelyn Strahle's husband David is 94 years old. "Two people had to put her in a wheelchair and lift her down those steps before we had it,” said David.

A pile of lumber is all that remains of the wheelchair ramp that gave Evelyn freedom to leave her Laurel home.

“It clips my wings. I can't do anything," said Evelyn.

Evelyn's son Bob built the ramp. He's in the construction trades. He didn't want his parents to pay the $5,000 they priced a ramp of this size. Bob bought $1,700 of lumber and built it himself.

"Very well built and I felt very safe on it always,” explained Evelyn.

Then, a Prince George's County inspector came.

“There was an inspector that showed up here twice when I was here and I asked him why couldn't he just inspect it and tell me if there was anything I needed to do to make any improvements on it so that it would fit permitting requirements but he said that wasn't the process and I had to go through the long route,” explained son Bob Strahle.

Bob submitted plans and tried to file for a permit but was denied because he built the ramp before asking county government. Prince George’s County mailed an order to the parents, demanding they show to District Court May 16th. The county sought compliance with building code. The order warned in bold lettering “if you fail to comply with such default order, you may be subject to fines or imprisonment, or both, for contempt of court.”

David Strahle replied, “I was very upset, naturally.”

Bob tore down the ramp. Weeks later, Haitham Hijazi, the county inspections director, wrote a letter admitting "something obviously went awry" and stated top managers could have worked with the Strahles if county employees had notified managers.

"For him to have to do that after he worked so hard to put it up. It was such a great gift and then to have to give it up,” commented Evelyn.

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