Ramps can be a relatively cost effective and convenient way to enhance accessibility so, assuming that you are here reading this because you have decided that a ramp is the best solution to a particular access problem you have – what’s next?
There are of course many different styles and types of ramp, from electric wheelchair ramps to small portable offerings that pack away in a small rucksack on the back of your chair – offering extra mobility on the go. Follow the links at the side of this page for type specific guides but there are a few general rules you should follow, no matter what type of ramp you plan to purchase.
First of all have it as clear as possible in your mind what you’re actually looking for. Shopping around can be stressful at the best of times and if you’re unsure as to what you’re after it can become a real chore. Online browsing makes it a bit easier but for large purchases we certainly suggest getting to see a physical example before you part with your money. The feel and build quality of a ramp is of paramount importance and all good suppliers can arrange for you to sample their products.
Before you start pounding the streets – or your keyboard, put the kettle on, get a hold of the people who will be using, operating or storing the ramp, and – while they eat all your biscuits – glean the following information: what types of ramp are available, where and how you will be using the ramp, the size and shape of the ramp needed and what needs, if any, you have to operate the ramp safely.
Jot all this information down and keep it close to hand. Now you can hide the biscuits.
With this information decided upon you can either start searching online with your stats in hand or call out a representative from a business to discuss your needs. Remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question and the salespeople should have plenty of experience with people with a wide range of mobility issues. Although cheap in comparison to electric wheelchair lifts or making building modifications, ramps can still be quite an expensive purchase for an individual to make – so be sure that you are completely happy with the product and all your questions have been answered to your satisfaction before you proceed with the purchase.
Factors to Consider…
- What type of ramp will fit your needs?
- Are you looking for a permanent, semi-permanent, or a temporary ramp?
- Will the ramp support the size and weight of the user?
- Does the ramp provide a non-slip surface?
- How much do you want to spend?
How steep and high is the incline you will be using the ramp on?
For portable or detachable ramps, deciding where to store it when not in use is of paramount important; some ramps can be folded up and stored in the back of a car, some will make it into a storage space in the home. Whatever the storage requirements, you will need to know the maximum size you can accommodate before you buy.
For loading unoccupied wheelchairs/scooters (unoccupied means nobody is sitting in the wheelchair/scooter while it drives up the ramp): ADA recommends a 3:12 slope which means for every three inches of vertical rise you are required to have at least one foot of ramp (14.5 degrees incline) To determine the length of ramp needed: Measure the vertical rise from the ground to where the ramp will sit on the vehicle, stairs or threshold. Take that measurement (inches) and divide it by 3. This will determine the length of ramp needed for an unoccupied power chair.
Example: 24 inches of rise requires an 8 foot ramp minimum (24 divided by 3).
For loading occupied power chairs/scooters (someone is riding on the power wheelchair/scooter): ADA recommends a 2:12 slope which means every 2″ of vertical rise requires one foot of ramp (9.5 degrees of incline)
To determine the length of ramp needed for residential usage: (Note: Business use requires a 1:12 slope) Measure the rise from the ground to where the ramp will sit on the vehicle, stairs or threshold. Take that measurement (inches) and divide it by 2. This will determine the length of ramp needed for an occupied power chair.
Example: 24 inches of rise requires a 12 foot ramp minimum (24 divided by 2).
For loading occupied power chairs/scooters (someone is riding on the power wheelchair/scooter): ADA recommends a 1:12 slope which means every 1″ of vertical rise requires one foot of ramp (5 degrees of incline) To determine the length of ramp needed for business usage: Measure the rise from the ground to where the ramp will sit on the vehicle, stairs or threshold. This measurement equals the length of ramp needed in feet.
Example: 24 inches of rise requires a 24 foot ramp minimum (24 divided by 1).
Ratio guidelines as recommended by the DDA and DRC: For every inch in step height you need inches of ramp length in the following ratios –
- 1:6 ratio – for assisted wheelchair
- 1:12 ratio – for self propelled wheelchair user on temporary ramp
- 1:15 ratio – for all permanently fixed ramps
- 1 inch = 25,4 mm Using the above DDA and DRC recommended ratios the minimum recommended ramp lengths are as follows.
For assisted wheelchairs:
Height of Step
- 1 inch Step – 6 inch Ramp
- 2 inch Step – 1 foot Ramp
- 4 inch Step – 2 foot Ramp
- 6 inch Step – 3 foot Ramp
For self propelled wheelchair user on temporary ramp:
Height of Step
- 1 inch Step – 1 foot Ramp
- 2 inch Step – 2 foot Ramp
- 4 inch Step – 4 foot Ramp
- 6 inch Step – 6 foot Ramp
For all permanently fixed ramps:
Height of Step
- 1 inch Step – 1 foot 3 inch Ramp
- 2 inch Step – 2 foot 6 inch Ramp
- 4 inch Step – 5 foot Ramp
- 6 inch Step – 7 foot 6 inch Ramp