A permanent or temporary wheelchair ramp? Which should you choose? We have your answer!
This post will discuss the various types of ramps and walk you through a simple method to know the right ramp for you.
Yes, it can be frustrating not knowing which ramp to install in your home. But with the right information, you can be certain you'll make the best decision.
This is a huge step and we will guide you all the way through. In a hurry? Here’s what we’ll be covering, so you can jump to what you want!
Types of Wheelchair Ramps
Before finding out how to choose the best wheelchair ramp you have to know the options available. There are 3 primary configurations: modular (semi-permanent), permanent, and temporary wheelchair ramps.
Temporary Wheelchair Ramp
A temporary or removable wheelchair ramp can also be called a folding or portable wheelchair ramp, and often has a handle so it can be carried like a suitcase. This is an excellent choice for individuals recovering from a short-term illness or injury. They are less expensive than the permanent option as you won't have to carry out any construction below the ramp.
Temporary wheelchair ramps are light in weight and are collapsible for seamless transport and storage. These are typically constructed using fiberglass, rubber, or aluminum.
These wheelchair ramps can sustain 300 to 600 pounds on average. However, if the need arises there are bariatric ramps capable of supporting up to 1,000 pounds.
There are various types of temporary wheelchair ramps depending on your needs.
- Threshold Ramps. These portable wheelchair ramps are wedge-shaped ramps that permit mobility-device users to move over minor obstructions like door thresholds, low curbs, and landings. They are perfect for both within your home and outside.
- Roll-A-Ramp. These have an extremely portable design that enables them to roll up. They're basically sleeping bag ramps. Roll-A-Ramps come in different lengths and widths to cater to varying size requirements. And allow you to choose between double track and single style.
Telescopic Ramps. These temporary wheelchair ramps can extend or retract to seamless transitions through steps or raised landings. Telescopic ramps possess varying length extension capabilities, which range from 5 to 10 feet.
You can get telescopic ramp models that come with a solid surface and others that utilize 2 tracks lining up with the wheelchair's wheel.
- Single-fold Ramps. These are also called suitcase ramps as you can fold them into a suitcase with a carrying handle. Single-fold ramps are the best choice for short inclines or putting an unoccupied electric wheelchair into an SUV or minivan.
There is also an upgrade of this wheelchair ramp that includes a top lip extension, which makes it safer to use for vehicles.
Here’s how it’ll look:
- MULTIFOLD PORTABLE WHEELCHAIR AND SCOOTER RAMP BY PVI
- TRANSITIONS ANGLED ENTRY RAMPS BY EZ-ACCESS
- GATEWAY 3G PORTABLE SOLID SURFACE ENTRY RAMPS BY EZ-ACCESS
Modular Ramps (Semi-permanent)
These provide a mix of the temporary wheelchair ramp versatility and the ease of use and strength of the permanent option. This is the best choice for people with a mid or long-term injury or illness or if you are renting your property. Some rentals will not allow you to install permanent ramps, so modular ramps enable you to still have a ramp with the strength of the latter. It is also the most common choice for businesses where needs may change.
They are prefabricated and purchasable in multiple sections. Because of this, you would need some degree of groundwork and a couple of hours to install.
For this type of wheelchair ramp, you can expect to spend anywhere from $400 to $4000. But for a full-length ramp above 20 inches expect higher costs.
That said, though modular ramps can stay put at home, their build enables easy removal and adjustments if required.
Custom modular ramps also allow you to remove, reconfigure, or add sections to cater to specific needs. For instance, if an object falls on your ramp you would just have to change the damaged section instead of the whole ramp.
Most modular ramps also come with self-training and high traction features which offer better anti-slip properties than the average ramp.
Permanent Wheelchair Ramp
Wooden Permanent Wheelchair Ramp Sample
Just like its name, permanent wheelchair ramps are installed in your home as a permanent feature. They are a good choice for people who must use mobility devices such as a scooter or wheelchair due to a permanent condition and don’t mind changing the look of their home.
Most times you would need to get the services of a licensed contractor to install the permanent ramp. Make sure your contractor understands the local codes and how to comply with ADA guidelines. This option typically costs anywhere from $1900 and above for the labor and can take weeks to months to complete construction.
You can choose either galvanized steel, concrete, wood, or aluminum for the construction.
But is easier to comply to ADA guidelines if you choose an aluminum ramp. For example, permanent wood ramps require consistent maintenance to prevent rotting and they can’t be easily modified to meet required specifications easily. Concrete ramps also require long-term maintenance.
On the other hand, aluminum ramps do not require consistent maintenance and usually come in modular designs. This means you can configure it to fit your particular specifications easily.
That said, the permanent wheelchair ramps provide strong stability, but relocation is either impossible or extremely costly. It is also important to think about the resale value of the home once permanent alterations are done. You have to ensure that it is visually appealing and does not degrade the value of the house.
So before adding a permanent ramp to your home ensure that it's the best option.
When to Choose a Permanent or Mobile Ramp for Wheelchair?
There are 5 primary factors that you must consider when deciding whether to choose a temporary or permanent wheelchair ramp:
- Is ADA required
- The type of health situation
- Usage type
- Your home design
Is ADA Required?
In order to know if ADA is required for your project, it is best to coordinate with your local zoning and building code authorities before choosing your ramp. But let’s take a closer look at what ADA requires:
Let's see the ADA requirements for wheelchair ramps:
- Your ramp handrails must run the whole length and leave a minimum of 1.5 inches of space between rail and wall.
- Wheelchair ramps that are more than 6 inches must include handrails on either side.
- All turn platforms must be a minimum of 60 inches by 60 inches to cater to turning wheelchairs.
- Your ramp should be at least 3 feet wide from each handrail.
- You must add appropriate landings at the top and bottom of the ramp. Every landing must be as broad as the ramp and stretch a minimum of 60 inches in length.
The ADA also requires that you have a rest or turn platform for every 30 feet in ramp length. This will enable mobility-device users to rest.
It's also important to note that a couple of years back, Mobile Home Parks were amalgamated into the ADA guidelines. The primary reason for this was that the home is on leased or public land.
The Type of Health Situation
Your particular health condition will affect the type of wheelchair ramp you'll use. So let’s see the typical situations
Quick Recovery Conditions. It is recommended to go for cost-effective solutions during quick recovery conditions like a lower extremity surgery. The ramp must also be easy to take down and set up and shouldn’t alter the structure of your house permanently.
Temporary options like portable and threshold folding ramps are the best options for quick recovery conditions. These are smaller and economical solutions that don't require you to invest for the long haul.
The ramps for shorter-term conditions perform functions like enabling you to bypass the problems that come with raised door thresholds, steps, and other obstacles.That said, temporary wheelchair ramps for quick recovery conditions won't change your home permanently so you can take them out after recovery. Just remember, these usually are 10ft long or shorter so if your doorway is more than 10”-15” from the ground you will want to look at Modular Ramps.
Progressive or Long-term Recovery Conditions. Modifying your home for progressive or long-term health conditions is a bit different. The ramps for this are more robust because they would be utilized for a longer period. They would also most likely be built to accommodate a caregiver if required. And can be personalized to fit your home to provide the best means of access.
The preferred type of ramps for individuals with progressive or long-term health conditions such as muscular dystrophy, Parkinson's, etc. is modular ramps.
Modular ramps are more durable which makes them perfect for long-term use. They're even able to withstand frequent use in bad weather.
The preferred build material for ramps intended for long-term conditions is aluminum. This is because the material does not rust, rot, or deteriorate.
Also, if the mobility-device user requires help to carry out various tasks, modular ramps are helpful to caregivers. They provide enough space for both the mobility device and caregiver to move safely in and out of the house.
Unlike the wheelchair ramps built for temporary options like portable folding and threshold ramps, the solutions for long-term conditions can be personalized to satisfy the user's particular requirements.
Modular ramps, for example, have various options and accessories that you can include or select to cater to the user's particular state of mobility. Plus, because modular ramps are easily configurable they effortlessly adhere to ADA guidelines.
The type of wheelchair you would need is dependent on your intended use. Here are typical use cases.
When the Ramp Must be Moved Frequently. If you require a wheelchair ramp that will move with you to provide ease of access regardless of where you are, it is recommended that you choose a temporary wheelchair ramp.
Portable folding ramps are an excellent choice for this use case because you can seamlessly move them from one location to another.
Plus when putting a mobility device into your vehicle, going on vacation, or moving to a new home, portable folding ramps are the most convenient choice. You can quickly deploy them to gain access to where you need to be.
When Other People are in Your Home. If you only need a wheelchair ramp for a visitor to your house, then the temporary wheelchair ramp would be the best choice. You will be able to move it out of the way for other members who do not require assistance when entering or exiting your home.
When You Need the Ramp to Stay Put. If you intend to use a wheelchair ramp only at home just to provide easy entrance and exit, then a permanent or modular (semi-permanent) option is the best.
This will allow you to install it without having to bother about moving around.
When More than One Household Member is in Need. If you have multiple people in your home who require an easy access solution then going the permanent route is the best option. This ensures that it is always available for the household and it can serve various needs.
For this type of situation, modular ramps are also a good choice. They're able to accommodate a broad range of mobility levels and allow you to move the ramp if you change homes.
Your Home Design
Depending on your home layout the kind of wheelchair ramp you would need would vary.
- When Your Home Design Works for Temporary Options. If your house has only one step at the entrance, a less-complex and temporary wheelchair ramp like the portable folding ramp would be an excellent choice. Since you won't need anything elaborate a simple ramp that can be folded and stored away when not in use would do.
- When Your Home Design Works for Permanent Wheelchair Ramps. If your house has 2 or more steps, is highly elevated or you need to access a second-level entrance, a portable ramp won't accommodate much higher rises. In this case, you would want to go for a permanent wheelchair type that you can install to reach higher heights. You can also customize modular ramps to fit into your home's particular design for the best fit. With a modular ramp, you can design a system that follows a particular pathway in and out of your house.
If you have limited space or if you need higher heights, you can utilize a vertical platform lift:
Regarding style, ensure that your chosen removable ramp offers a non-slip surface, lightweight material, and folding options.
Permanent and modular ramps, on the other hand, should be non-slip and provide continuous handrails on either side of the ramp if it is longer than 7ft..
It should also offer landings at the top and bottom of the ramp that are a minimum of 4 ft in length and void of all obstructions.
Choosing the Right Length for your Permanent or Temporary Ramp for Wheelchair
When installing a permanent or temporary wheelchair ramp you should go for the least possible slope.
This means that you build the longest ramp feasible in your chosen space. This makes it easy to climb and reduces the risk of falling backward. It is also safer to utilize a less steep ramp during turbulent weather like rain or snow.
As already seen, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) recommends a maximum slope of 1:12 for wheelchair ramps. This translates to a 1-inch for every 12 inches of your ramp. But what about if ADA is not required? Use our guide here to calculate the exact length of ramp that you need.
What Makes a Portable Temporary Wheelchair Ramp Safe?
There are 2 primary things to consider when deciding on the safety of a portable ramp:
- How the ramp sits on the entryway edge or stair
- What keeps the wheelchair ramp from shifting out of place
How the Ramp Sits on an Entryway Edge or Stairway
This is a major safety consideration. If your wheelchair ramp isn't flush with the transition area it can result in a wobbly or unlevel ramp.
This is a dangerous situation for both caregivers walking on the ramp (trip hazard) and any mobility device.
Because temporary portable ramps are built for usage on various landing surfaces, ensuring that the ramp sits properly while in use is important.
For instance, a ramp may not sit correctly on your car's floorboard as it would on an interior threshold or front porch.
This does not imply that the ramp isn't safe. But it does mean that the ramp may not be built for usage on that specific landing surface. Or would need a top lip extension to hold it on the transition area.
Your chosen portable ramp can be safe regarding its build, but if you attempt to install it on an uneven surface, it will result in a dangerous transition.
Ensure that the landing surface area that you will install your ramp is fully level, before placing a ramp there. For example, you can fix uneven steps, or fill up places with broken concrete before the portable wheelchair ramp can be installed safely.
A great place to get your ramp out-the-box with top and bottom transitions is when you purchase the Pathway 3G Ramp at Wheelchair Liberty. All our Pathway 3G Ramps have this feature at no additional cost.
What Keeps the Wheelchair Ramp from Shifting out of Place
There are varying factors that ensure your ramp has adequate friction where it rests on a surface. Some of these factors include transition lip dimensions, weight, and strength of the ramp.
Some ramps have holes drilled at the bottom and top where users can use screws and bolts to secure them to the surface to the surface they rest on.
That said, this feature is primarily for semi-permanent and permanent wheelchair ramps. It wouldn't make sense to use it if you're going to move the ramp frequently.
Some temporary wheelchair ramps have rubber feet on the bottom that offer traction and prevent the ramp from sliding down when weight is present.
Some others provide lip extensions capable of extending over your car bumper, fixing the temporary ramp tightly to the back of a minivan or SUV.
Lastly, Senior Safety Advice recommends that any type of ramp should possess safety edges (containment edges or curbs). These safety edges run across the sides of the ramp to prevent wheelchairs from sliding off the incline.
Where to Buy the Right Permanent or Temporary Wheelchair Ramp?
Purchasing a permanent or temporary wheelchair ramp is a huge decision and we get it! Add to that other modifications that you may need to make, and it can be overwhelming.
This is why you must make an informed choice. Hopefully, our guide has helped you achieve that and you're now prepared to make the final decision. Check here to request a ramp quote,
Just ensure the various factors like use case, health condition, slope, length, and style guide your decision.
But all this information won't be worth it if you don't have a great place to shop!
Wheelchair Liberty offers a variety of mobility-device ramps that adhere to ADA guidelines. So you're sure to find the best ramp for your needs here.