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How to Buy a Wheelchair Ramp

04/21/2023

Whether you have used wheelchair ramps your whole life, or this is a new experience for you or a loved one, determining what you need to shop for and buy a wheelchair ramp is the first step in increasing your accessibility and gaining independence in your daily life.

A simple way to approach it is to fill in the blanks in this sentence:

I’m looking for a wheelchair ramp to overcome a ___ rise located _____, and it must be able to support at least ___ lbs.

Here is a step-by-step look at what to know as you enter your ramp-buying journey:

Measure the overall height of the rise you need to overcome
Measuring the overall height or Rise

Measure the overall height of the rise you need to overcome

The rise is another name for the total height of the step, or steps, that you will be rolling over. If you only have one small step, a threshold ramp might be suitable for your needs. If your rise spans multiple steps, a larger wheelchair ramp or a modular ramp will mostly likely be your safest and most appropriate option.

The current ADA guidelines are that for every 1” rise, you should have 12” of ramp. Although required for public spaces and strongly recommended for residential homes, if you are shopping for your home then you do have greater flexibility on if you prefer a more gradual or steeper incline. We will always recommend that our customers follow ADA guidelines for ramp lengths to ensure the safest operation.

Take note of where the ramp will be used

Because the location might restrict the type of ramp solution that will work for your space, particularly when shopping for a ramp that will be used with an older home, it’s helpful to identify how much space you have to work with. In addition, jot down any environmental features that might interfere with the placement of the ramp, such as a curved sidewalk, awkward door, angled patio step, etc.

If your ramp will butt up against a doorway, you will have to make sure the top of the ramp is designed with flattened side rails or an extended lip so that the door can still be opened with the ramp in place.

If the ramp will be used in a garage, determine how much space you have to work with and whether it will interfere with storing your vehicles.

Identifying the potential issues ahead of time will help you make a more informed purchasing decision when it comes time to shop and buy.

Find out the length and weight of your mobility device
Measuring length and weight of mobility device is neccessary

Find out the length and weight of your mobility device

If you wish to use the ramp with a larger mobility device such as a three- or four-wheel scooter or powerchair, having a good understanding of how much weight the ramp should be able to support is important.

Most dimensions and weight can usually be found on the manufacturer’s website, and it’s a good idea to note the length and width, as well as what you think the total combined weight of the device, accessories, user, and caregiver (if applicable) will be.

If you ride a 300 lb. mobility scooter and weigh between 200 and 350 lbs., you will probably need a ramp that supports 700 or 800 lbs. to account for any additional accessories such as backpacks, grandchildren, etc. that you might also have with you when you use the ramp.

It’s also worth noting that most manufacturers have a maximum allowable incline for their mobility devices – that means no wheelies on the ramp!

Think about portability and if you’ll be transporting the ramp

Although there are a lot of straight or non-folding ramps available, the majority of ramps will fold in half, in quarters, or split into two sections for easier transportation. Those portable options will also usually have built-in handles to save your hands.

One exception to portable wheelchair ramps is when you need a very long ramp, say 12’ or more. In that situation, you’ll most likely need to shop for a modular wheelchair ramp, which is a more permanent solution that, once installed, isn’t convenient to disassemble and take with you.

Decide on style and additional features

Wheelchair ramps are usually constructed out of aluminum, which weighs less than steel with just as much strength, however threshold ramps are available in other materials as well, such as rubber, polyurethane, expanded foam and other softer materials that are better suited for small steps, entryways, and indoor use.

All ramps will have traction surfaces to reduce slips and falls, and the common ones include grit coat, heavy-duty punch plate traction or manufactured traction extruded directly into the aluminum surface.

Some ramps also come with mounting holes and pins for a permanent or semi-permanent installation, and lip extensions at the top of some ramps help ease the transition beneath the ramp and the connected surface.

If the ramp will be used by individuals who don’t exclusively use a mobility device, such as those with walkers, rollators, or independent movers, handrails are also an option on some ramps.

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