Walking up the steps and entering the front door of Ron Rambo’s Lancaster city apartment automatically brings to mind the following questions: How does Ron get up the steps? How does he get through the doorway? How does he maneuver around the furniture in the tiny front room that serves as a living room and office workspace?
You see, Ron has cerebral palsy. He’s been confined to a wheelchair for his adult life. He needs 24-hour care, and has difficulty communicating. Housing has always been an issue for Ron. He lived with his parents, Donald and Joyce Killian, until he was 36 years old, and then applied for Section 8 housing to live on his own. “He wanted to move out and get his own place, so he was going to go through the Section 8 voucher program,” his aide of nine years, Chad Ibach, explains. “He had a pretty rough time finding this place,” Chad says, gesturing around Ron’s apartment, “which is the best that he’s found so far. The landlords took Section 8, which is a requirement for him, and it’s on the first floor, which is very convenient if you’re in a wheelchair, and it was available.”
“So he got it,” Chad continues, “but he still can’t even get in the bathroom. He can’t get in the laundry room. It’s hard to maneuver around here, with his lift system bumping into things, getting around the furniture.” Ron was able to have a ramp built in the back of the building to access his apartment, but the problems with daily living cause frustrations for Ron and his aides.
Serendipitously, as Ron dreamed of a better living situation, his mother suggested utilizing the lot in the back of her house on East End Avenue to build an accessible home that would offer Ron the accommodations he would need to live a more comfortable life. Knowing Ron’s affinity for nature, one of his aides introduced him to Max Zahniser, an architect specializing in green building. Max immediately jumped on the project, and assembled a team of professionals devoted to designing Ron an accessible, selfsustaining, ecologically responsible home. Thus, “Ramboland” was born.
“Basically the entire idea is to make a living situation for people with disabilities that makes sense in so many other ways, that doesn’t take any extra effort, but actually decreases it,” Chad says. According to the Ramboland website, the house will have “extra-wide doors, automated mechanical and electrical systems, a suspension system between the bedroom and bathroom, adjustable height furniture, cooktop, sink and appliances, and even wheelchair accessible planter beds, and a wheelchair accessible, ecologically restorative ‘yard’.”
“Ramboland snowballed into setting a precedent for what it can mean for somebody with a disability or in a wheelchair and the burden on the taxpayers,” Chad says. “The effect on the planet, the quality of life within the home, the extra income from selling the extra power, the wastewater treatment savings, the rainwater collection, the gardens in the backyard,” Chad counts off the home’s eco-friendly features on his fingers as he sits by Ron’s side, “Just logistically, in every sense of the word, it makes total sense and makes a better situation for everybody involved.”
Ron smiles and nods as his aide and friend describes Ramboland. He’s excited to get the project started and his home built. Ramboland has garnered support from city planners, former Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray, and current Mayor Danene Sorace, and is relying on donors to get the project out of the planning stages and into construction. In the meantime, Ron continues to charm Lancaster residents as a fixture around the city’s notable haunts. He’s a regular at Square One Coffee, where he enjoys hanging out with his friends. He ventures to the Taproom every Tuesday night, where he orders a pork sandwich even though it’s Taco Tuesday.
Two days a week Ron can be found at Central Market, where he hangs out with his friends that work at Mean Cup, buys vegetables and chats with Earl Groff, and visits the ladies at Green Circle Organics. “Ron has many friends at Market,” Chad laughs, “so at every stand we shop at, it’s more small talk than shopping.” When asked if he has anything he wants people to know about Ramboland, Ron automatically replies that he wants people to check out the website, Ramboland.com. He smiles and says he has a good friend that works on the website. “I do it,” Chad laughs.
With friends like Ron’s, Ramboland can’t be far from reality.
For more information on Ramboland, visit www.ramboland.com.