A wheelchair ramp can mean the difference between struggling to access your home and making life a lot easier. For wheelchair users, ramps should be considered an essential item but buying one can feel daunting, especially if you haven’t done it before.
In this guide, I’ll be talking about the most important factors to consider when buying a wheelchair ramp. I’ll also go over some of the things you’ll need to look for and how to ensure you get the right gradient; one of the most important parts of buying a wheelchair ramp.
So, if you’ve previously felt unsure where to start, keep reading and you’ll find everything you need to know.
What To Consider About Your Needs
Before you start looking at the various types of wheelchair ramps, it’s really important to consider your personal needs. We’re all different and these differences will impact which type of ramp is best, so have a think about the following things.
Type of Wheelchair
When it comes to buying a wheelchair ramp, you will need to think carefully about the type of mobility device you use. For manual wheelchairs, it’s important to choose something that doesn’t have quite as steep a gradient.
Users that have a portable mobility scooter, for example, will find that they need a lot more ground clearance near the top section of the ramp, otherwise there is a risk of becoming stuck.
When we talk about weight, we aren’t just referring to the weight of the user but also the weight of the wheelchair and any other equipment, such as oxygen tanks, that may be on the ramp at any one time.
Just like many other things, all ramps will have a weight limit and it is essential not to exceed this for safety reasons. Powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters are a lot heavier than manual devices so you’ll need to factor this in.
Moreover, if you have a caregiver that will help you to move up and down the ramp, their weight will also need to be considered.
How Much Do You Want To Spend?
There are lots of different types of wheelchair ramps and each one costs a different amount of money. Generally speaking, if you opt for materials like fibreglass or concrete, you’re going to end up paying a lot more. However, these are great if you’re looking for a permanent solution.
On the other hand, aluminium wheelchair ramps are a lot more affordable and may be a viable choice for temporary users, However, you’ll also need to factor in the length of the ramp in order to get a better idea of its overall cost.
For people that are not installing a permanent ramp, there is the question of storage. Of course, the larger and longer the ramp, the more room you’re going to need to keep it.
Things To Consider About Your Property
Just like wheelchair users, all properties are different and this will impact the type of ramp you can use or whether it’s possible to install one at all. Here are some things you’ll want to think about.
Is It Possible To Build A Ramp?
While commercial businesses are obliged to ensure that their properties are accessible to wheelchair users, domestic properties come in all shapes and sizes. In some cases, this means that it isn’t possible to build a wheelchair ramp.
There are some facades that make it impossible to install a ramp whether permanent or temporary. Things like steep steps, grass and other surfaces may inhibit the process so it’s really important to fully assess the property to see what can and can’t be done.
If you are in any doubt as to the possibilities, I’d advise calling in a professional builder who will be able to assess the situation for you. Installing a ramp in certain situations, such as on soft ground, could pose a serious safety risk. That said, it may be possible to create a more solid surface using concrete or paving slabs.
Another thing that you’ll need to look at is the type of threshold that your property has. Depending on what this is, you may require a certain type of ramp. What you’ll find is that you either have steps leading up to the entrance, internal steps or a wooden or PVC door threshold that you need to get over.
I’d also highly recommend looking at how wide the doorway is into your home. Typically speaking, you’d expect it to be about 30 inches but this isn’t the case across the board, especially with older properties. You’ll need to make sure that the ramp you choose is compatible with the width of the door.
Do You Own The Space Outside Your Property?
Some properties directly lead onto public space whereas others have a private drive or garden. In the case that your house leads straight onto public land, you will not be able to install a permanent ramp. At least not without permission which is unlikely to be granted if the ramp would pose an obstruction. In this case, it’s a better idea to use a portable ramp.
I’d also recommend looking at how much space is outside the front of the property. Even if it is yours to do with as you please, you may find that there’s simply not enough room to install a ramp. In some cases, you may be able to use a ramp with a steeper gradient but there is a limit to this.
Types Of Wheelchair Ramps
When it comes to choosing a wheelchair ramp, there are a lot of options to consider. Once you’ve finished thinking about the needs of yourself and your property, you’ll have a much better idea of what sort of ramp you need. The following are some of the most common options.
If you’re looking for an affordable portable wheelchair ramp then you may wish to consider a channel ramp. They’re made up of two pieces, these are the channels. And these two pieces are used in conjunction with one another to form a ramp.
One of the things you need to think about when using a channel ramp is that the two pieces must be placed at the correct distance so the wheelchair wheels can fit onto them. Owing to the design, it isn’t possible to use channel ramps with a three wheel scooter or chair.
A lot of people favour channel ramps owing to the fact that they’re very lightweight and easy to handle, making them perfect for travel. Moreover, a lot of them are telescopic so channel ramps are great for storing in the back of the car.
I’d recommend a channel ramp for users who have a self propelled wheelchair as well as some styles of four wheeled mobility scooters. They’re not ideal for attendant propelled wheelchairs as it can be a little tricky to walk on the ramps.
Of course, there are downsides to the channel ramp and one of the main problems is that a lot of scooters are too wide to use them. There are some wider channel ramps out there, however, so it is still worth researching them
Additionally, you have to consider that these ramps are not suitable for low ride height scooters as they will ground out when they get to the top of the ramp. That said, you can counter this problem by choosing a channel ramp whose gradient is less than 1:3.
Trifold And Suitcase Ramps
This type of ramp takes its name from the fact that, when it is folded in half, it has a handle and resembles a suitcase. This makes them easy to carry and is perfect for people who need something that won’t require as much storage space.
Typically, trifold ramps are recommended when the length exceeds five feet as even when suitcase ramps are folded, at this length, they can become heavy and cumbersome.
One of the best things about a suitcase ramp is that you don’t need such precision when placing the ramp nor when you are moving over it. They’re ideal if you have an attendant propelled chair as there’s lots of room on the ramp for them to walk.
Unlike channel ramps, these ramps are brilliant for three wheeled scooters as they are totally solid without any gaps. However, you have to consider that they’re a lot more expensive owing to the fact that they’re made from heavier materials.
A threshold ramp will help you get through a doorway whose threshold is no more than three inches in height. They can be easily fitted thanks to the built in edge which you don’t have to place directly onto the threshold.
However, it’s possible that you’ll need to threshold ramps; one for the internal side of the door and one for the outside.
There are two different types of threshold ramps. Portable ones can be taken with you when you’re travelling but it’s also possible to get fixed threshold ramps in your home for permanent use. Plus, they’re installed using screws so they can be easily removed should you no longer need the wheelchair or if you move house.
When you’re out and about, you’ll likely come across obstacles like curbs but a portable wheelchair ramp gives you a way to get over these easily. These ramps are usually quite small and don’t typically exceed 24 inches. They’re also very lightweight so you can carry them wherever you go and usually include a carry bag that attaches to your wheelchair for convenience.
Getting The Gradient Right
Perhaps the most important thing about choosing a wheelchair ramp is getting the gradient right. If you don’t, then the wheelchair ramp won’t be long enough.
While there aren’t any enforceable standards, there are guidelines that suggest a permanent wheelchair ramp should have a 1:15 gradient. This means that, for every inch of rise, there is 15 inches of length. That said, this isn’t always the most practical solution, especially in tight spots. Therefore, most wheelchair ramps will have a 1:6 gradient.
In order to determine the right gradient for your wheelchair ramp, you will first need to work out the height of the steps you’re trying to get over. Once this measurement has been taken, you can figure out the required length of the ramp.
For example, if the step is 12 inches high and you’ll be using a gradient of 1:6, the ramp would need to be six feet in length. But you don’t even need to put your GCSE maths to good use to figure this out as there are wheelchair ramp length calculators online that will figure it out for you.
Buying a wheelchair ramp does require some careful consideration. You’ll need to assess your property to make sure that it is suitable for a ramp installation and whether there are any special requirements that will affect the kind of ramp you can use.
Also consider your own needs such as your weight, the type of wheelchair or scooter you use and whether you have additional equipment or a caregiver that’ll need to be on the ramp as well.
This guide to buying a wheelchair ramp makes things so much simpler and easy to understand. But, if you are ever in any doubt, speak to your supplier who will be able to offer you more tailored advice.