The builder actually did install one set of attic stairs - and that was when they discovered the mis-fit. They somehow installed the stairs already extended, and not fold them up due to the door-frame. (Oops). An interesting aside- the builder apparently left them extended down to pass inspection, with the city inspector not noticing that they couldn't fold up! (Austin inspectors are so flat-out busy these days that it is tough for them to take enough time to notice everything)
The installed stairs seem to rest on the floor OK and fit, but now that you mention it it is possible that they could be cut back a little to yield a shorter, steeper stair.
To cut them they'd need to remove the bottom section, shorten the middle section, and re-install the bottom section. That shouldn't be a big deal. I'll pass on your idea.
Re telescoping ladders - we considered that, but the ons we saw require a significant clear space to project into inside the attic. Unfortunately, there are structural members and a water heater that would get in the way.
Someone, somewhere, must make ladders that fold down within the length of their ceiling frame. One way to do it would be to make a hybrid form - telescope only to the length of the opening, and then fold the low section out. With a 4' opening, that would get 8' of ladder down before it had to unfold, which should be plenty to get under pretty much any doorway top.