Choosing the Right Wheelchair Ramp

The first step in deciding whether to purchase a portable ramp for your needs or whether to have a permanent ramp installed is naturally whether or not the need for the ramp will be very long-term. But in some cases, such as during recovery and recuperation from illness or injury, it still might be best to have a modular ramp installed rather than relying on a temporary, portable ramp for a home’s entryway. Even modular ramps, which are considered permanent, can be removed when the need is gone. But in the meantime, they provide a sturdy, maintenance-free way for a person using a wheelchair or power chair to get in and out of the home.

Portable ramps like one-piece ramps and suitcase ramps are perfect for temporary situations or in places where a permanent ramp might not practical. One-piece ramps are portable and can be moved from one small set of steps to another, but suitcase ramps and other folding ramps are ideal to take along and to use to get a wheelchair or scooter in and out of a van or onto a platform for transportation. You can also purchase track ramps, which are narrow pieces designed to accommodate a chair’s wheels.

If you have many stairs or a tall staircase, you might consider a ramp in addition to something like a vertical platform lift. A lift can raise a person in a chair to an upper platform when a ramp can’t be used. Stair lifts, in which a person sits on a chair and is lifted up the staircase, are also an option for both outdoor and indoor staircases, depending on the architecture. Those are convenient choices when you need more than small ramps.

But even when ramps are all you need, you still have to make some choices about size, safety features and length. For home use, the ADA gives a recommended ratio of 2 to 12. That means for every two inches of rise there should be 12 inches, or one foot, of ramp. Commercial buildings and businesses are supposed to have one foot of ramp for every inch of height, for safety’s sake. And ramps that you use to get empty chairs in and out of vehicles can be steeper, with only a foot of ramp for about every 4 inches of height.

Keep those things in mind as you decide which ramps are best for you, because a ramp that’s too steep can be a hazard. Outdoor ramps can become slick in the rain or snowy weather even when they’re the right angle, so one that’s too steep is even more likely to cause a dangerous tumble. The proper size and angle should be your first concern when choosing a ramp.

Also consider things like the eyesight and steadiness of the chief ramp user. You can choose both portable and permanent ramps that have features like edge guards and handrails that can keep someone from going off the edge. These small additions don’t cost much more but can provide extra safety and peace of mind.