Wheelchair Ramp Buying Guide

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Wheelchair Ramp Buying Guide

Anyone who is in a wheelchair, either temporarily or permanently, knows how frustrating it is to have limited access to different areas, even within one's own home or on one's personal property. For someone who is temporarily restricted to a wheelchair, paying for remodeling of the home just does not make sense. A permanent situation may have arisen after a home was already chosen, and there may be several reasons why adaptive construction cannot be undertaken. A wheelchair ramp can give a differently abled person access to rooms, buildings, and outdoor structures that were previously unnavigable. Before buying a wheelchair ramp, shoppers should be familiar with the specs needed for safety and utility. Then, they can review all of the different types of ramps in order to choose the best one for their needs.

Required Specs for Wheelchair Ramps

In order to be safe, most wheelchair ramps must adhere to certain specs as noted below. It is important that users know and adhere to these specs, especially if installing a ramp in a public space.

Slope and Length Specs for Wheelchair Ramps

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) specifies that commercial wheelchair ramps should have a slope of 1:12, meaning 1 inch of rise for every 12 inches in length. The higher the steps, the longer the ramp needs to be. This results in a safe, shallow ramp. Because the ADA does not apply to residential applications, home wheelchair ramps may be slightly steeper, but a 2:12 slope is about the steepest one should go. The following chart gives examples of ramp lengths according to rise for both commercial and residential applications.

Rise (Height) Required of Ramp in Inches

Required Length of Commercial Wheelchair Ramp in Feet

Minimum Acceptable Length of Residential Wheelchair Ramp in Feet

12

12

6

18

18

9

24

24

12

30

30

15

36

36

18

Wheelchair ramps shorter than the 2:12 ratio are very steep, likely to result in accidents, and are best avoided. It is recommended that the elderly have a ramp in the ratio of 1:18 or even 1:20, because they have less strength to roll themselves upward or slow themselves down on a decline.

Weight Specs for Wheelchair Ramps

Before purchasing any wheelchair ramp, it is essential that the weight of the occupied wheelchair be calculated. Some ramps may not be strong enough to hold a wheelchair that is carrying a full-grown adult or an obese adult.

Types of Wheelchair Ramps

There are a few basic types of wheelchair ramps. Buyers must decide between permanent and temporary types. Wheelchair ramp buyers must also make a decision on the material used for the ramp, since each material has its pros and cons.

Permanent Vs. Temporary Wheelchair Ramps

A permanent wheelchair ramp is ideal for a long-term residential situation or a commercial application and for a person who must use a wheelchair for life. A temporary wheelchair ramp is a better choice for a living situation where someone is renting or for someone who is confined to the wheelchair for just a short time, as after an injury or surgery.

Track Vs. Platform Ramps

There are two basic designs of wheelchair ramps: track and platform. Track wheelchair ramps are made of two sections, one for the wheels on each side of the chair. They are lighter, which is important if the ramps must be portable or otherwise repositioned, such as ramps kept in a van to help riders in and out. A platform-style wheelchair ramp is one even, elevated surface. Its solid design makes it inherently heavier than track-style ramps, but it is easier for wheelchair users to navigate, since the wheels do not have to be kept in a very specific orientation.

Materials Used for Wheelchair Ramps

A wheelchair ramp must be extremely sturdy and strong; however, a portable ramp must also be light enough to move relatively easily. There are a few different basic materials used for wheelchair ramps in different situations.

Wooden Wheelchair Ramps

Wooden wheelchair ramps are the most popular type, probably because they can be put together by an individual with basic carpentry skills out of scrap wood. This means that many wooden wheelchair ramps are among the most inexpensive. Some of these ramps may be permanently fixed structures, while others may be temporary setups that are movable.

Wood can look very attractive but, like a deck or steps, wood must be treated to make it weather resistant. Wood is also prone to getting slippery when it becomes wet. It may be covered with a special gripping surface for traction.

Galvanized Steel Wheelchair Ramps

Galvanized steel wheelchair ramps are usually black and feature an open gridwork pattern, which makes the ramp lighter and also allows precipitation and dirt to pass through. Galvanized steel is likely to cost less than aluminum; however, the holes can be treacherous for women's high-heeled footwear, as the heels may sink through and cause injury or falls.

Aluminum Wheelchair Ramps

Aluminum wheelchair ramps are light and easily moved. Some come in interlocking modules to allow the ramp to extend to any length desired. Aluminum does not rust, but it can be costly, and if it is not thick enough, it may not be as sturdy as one might prefer. It can also be slippery if it is not textured.

Concrete Wheelchair Ramps

Concrete wheelchair ramps have a safety texture built into the surface, but are among the most expensive ramps. Concrete can be finished to resemble another material in a permanent situation, which makes the expense worth it if aesthetics are a major concern.

Fiberglass Wheelchair Ramps

Fiberglass wheelchair ramps are lightweight, durable, and naturally weather-resistant.

Rubber Wheelchair Ramps

Rubber wheelchair ramps are usually short threshold ramps. Rubber does not have the strength to support an occupied wheelchair unless it is solid, and a long, solid wedge of rubber would be quite heavy and impractical. For doorway use, however, rubber ramps are quite durable and fairly inexpensive.

Plastic Wheelchair Ramps

Plastic wheelchair ramps, like rubber ramps, are almost always for threshold use, providing just enough lift to get over a short rise into a doorway.

Folding and Portable Wheelchair Ramps

A folding wheelchair ramp or portable wheelchair ramp may be necessary when traveling to a location that is not normally accessible by wheelchair. This may include a friend or relative's home or a private office. A folding ramp is easier to get into a van or car. Some portable ramps may actually come in sections that come apart or roll up. Other portable ramps are small, solid ramps that are used for curbs or thresholds.

Threshold Wheelchair Ramps

Threshold wheelchair ramps are short ramps that are designed to get a wheelchair just over a short rise, such as through a door, or up over a curb. Lifting one's body weight over even a rise of just a couple of inches in a wheelchair is next to impossible, so these types of ramps are quite useful and necessary.

Where to Buy Wheelchair Ramps

Wheelchair ramps are not items that are generally sold at chain retailers or mass merchandisers. Mobility equipment for people with disabilities is typically sold through medical equipment and supply companies. People who have access to a friend or family member with carpentry skills may consider having one or more ramps built. Wheelchair ramps are also available through specialty supply retailers by mail order or online. Classified ads and online auctions are some other good places to check, particularly for used ramps.

How to Buy a Wheelchair Ramp on eBay

Buying a wheelchair ramp on eBay can be done by performing a keyword search or using category navigation. For the navigation method, begin at the homepage, look through all categories, and locate health and beauty items. Continue on to mobility or disability products and then find ramps. To do a keyword search, type a word or phrase into the Search box that appears on any eBay page, and then click on Search or hit the Enter key on your keyboard. Try a phrase such as "portable aluminum wheelchair ramp" or "rubber threshold ramp." Either way, you can use category filters to narrow down the results to exactly the products you are looking for.

Conclusion

A wheelchair ramp is a necessity for anyone who is wheelchair bound, whether on a short-term or long-term basis. Ramps are crucial for maintaining mobility, access to different parts of one's property or building, and most importantly, one's independence. A ramp must be of a length to keep the incline from being too steep, which can be both unsafe and also difficult to navigate in an upward direction. A wheelchair ramp should also be stable, strong, and able to support the weight of the person and the wheelchair combined.

When it comes to selecting a type of wheelchair ramp, there are a few decisions that must be made. The first decision is between a permanent or temporary ramp. The second is whether to get a track-style (two-section) or platform-style (one-section) ramp. The third decision is what type of material is preferred. By taking the time to consider all the available options, any wheelchair user or caregiver can obtain the right wheelchair ramp that suits all parties involved.

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