Wheelchair Ramp Buying Guide
Questions to consider before buying a wheelchair ramp.
Where and when will you need a wheelchair ramp?
Before you shop for a wheelchair ramp, think about all the spaces in your home that have steps, raised thresholds or other barriers that you’ll need a ramp to transition from one area to another. Common areas where ramps are needed include:
Steps leading to front or back entry doors
Steps from your garage into your home
Doors with raised thresholds or lips, such as exterior doors
The threshold between the floor and the shower in your bathroom
Vehicle thresholds, like vans or SUVs
Sliding glass doors
How long does your ramp need to be?
The length of the stairs and the vertical height the ramp needs to ascend will determine the type of ramp you need. Please consult the guidelines in your wheelchair or scooter manuals. You can use our ramp calculator as a guide to determine the length of ramp required for your step(s.) Keep in mind that there are many factors to consider aside from the recommended ramp length and slope. The physical condition of the assistant, the combined weight of the wheelchair and occupant when compared to the assistant, how often you will need to be using the ramp, and does the ramp need to be moved and/or stored after each use are all things you may want to consider before deciding which ramp to purchase. A 1:12 slope is the ADA recommended slope, which means that you should have 12 inches (1 foot) of ramp for every 1 inch of vertical rise. For example, if you have 2 steps that total 12 inches in height, the ramp should be 12 feet long. There are exceptions to this rule only if there are space restriction considerations. The overall rise that you need to overcome with the ramp will also be a contributing factor to determine the type of ramp that best suits your needs.
Did you know: The #1 reason for return is ... "the ramp is not long enough." How can you prevent the need for a returned order? Please call one of our Ramp Experts before you place your order to determine if the ramp you are ordering is the most appropriate ramp for your needs.
How wide does your ramp need to be?
To determine the ramp width you need, consider the following:
How wide is the wheelbase on your wheelchair or scooter? It's important to make sure your chair can safely cross the ramp surface with some margin for safety on either side.
If using a ramp to get in and out of a vehicle, consider the width of the door opening on your vehicle. Depending on the ramp you purchase, you will need 30 inches or more for a door opening.
CHOOSING YOUR WHEELCHAIR RAMP
Now that you know how to figure out the ramp length and width you need, there are several types of ramps you can consider to meet your needs.
Threshold ramps are used to go over short vertical rises, like those found at doorways. Solid ramps, rubber wedge ramps, and single fold ramps are the most common types of threshold ramps. Before purchasing a threshold ramp, calculate the length you need. If your required length is longer than standard threshold ramps, consider a portable ramp.
Threshold ramps are the most common type of ramp needed inside and outside the home, as raised thresholds, usually ½ inch up to 6 inches high, are common at many doors. These ramps are very short, designed to facilitate a very small rise, portable and light. Consider affixing threshold ramps permanently at any doors with raised thresholds.
Portable ramps are most commonly used to bridge a rise of stairs at a home. These ramps usually fold up like suitcases and can be carried with you, although there are some shorter ramps that are solid surfaces. When purchasing a portable ramp, consider the total weight of the ramp to ensure it can be easily and safely set up, folded, moved, and/or carried.
Vehicle ramps are a type of ramp designed specifically for a sports utility vehicles and vans, rather than those ramps that are interchangeable between vehicles and steps or paths. SUV/Van ramps typically have an extended top lip to help clear the rear bumper of the vehicle. We offer two ramps with an extended lip, one which is an optional purchase, and one which is built into the ramp itself.
Pathway Style Ramps (semi-portable)
Pathway style ramps are considered somewhat portable, in that they can be moved and/or stored if needed. Pathway style are solid surface ramps with an extruded metal surface (for traction) and are available with or without handrails. The pathway style ramps are 36” wide, and are more appropriate for a those who plan to use the ramp with a walker or cane, in addition to a wheelchair or scooter. Some pathway ramps are one solid piece (EZ Access Gateway), and some of the longer pathway style ramps (PVI OnTrac) come in two sections and need to be assembled upon delivery. Those that are assembled are furnished with legs to support the ramp from underneath.
You may need a ramp length beyond what's offered for getting through front and back doors. When this is the case, consider a modular ramp with customizable length. If you have more than 12 inches of vertical rise, a modular ramp is a more appropriate ramp solution. Modular ramps are designed in a way that makes it possible for you to reconfigure the ramp in the case of relocation, but they are considered a semi-permanent access solution.
Aluminum modular ramps are made from durable aluminum and can be bought in sections to create the length and path you need. You can buy ramp sections in various lengths as well as platforms on which to make left, right or U-turns. While not as complex as building and installing a custom wood ramp, this is still a job for someone with solid building skills who can ensure the safety and stability of the ramp.
To meet most codes, a level area must be located at the top and the bottom of a ramp. If a porch is not present at the top, a platform should be placed over the steps in front of the door.
A run of over 30 feet must have an intermediate resting platform. This platform may be a straight or turn platform. The resting platform must be at least 60 inches in length and as wide as the ramp that is leading up to it.
Any platform that changes direction must be at least 60 inches by 60 inches. For example, a 90 degree turn in direction requires a 5’ x 5’ turning platform.
Handrails are required on any rise over 6 inches, or ramps that are over 6 feet in length.
Handrails are required on both sides of the ramp, with continuous rails on switchback and angled or square turning platforms.
Handrails are strongly recommended on any ramp.